On the money, on the ball - stats the way for Wallabies
Matt Burke adapts the Moneyball theory to Rugby.
During the week I finally got around to watching the movie Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt. If you haven't seen it, the premise of the movie is that baseballers should not be judged on reputation, history or influence but formulating a statistical profile that will show via percentages and averages their true value on the park. Basically, they became statistics men.
I thought a little deeper about this scenario and wondered if you could adapt that Moneyball theory to rugby. I am not going to go as far as Jonah Hill's character did with regards to stats; my thinking is could you choose a Wallabies team without prejudice or influence playing a factor? Perhaps this could be a mid-term grade for the players on show at the moment in this year's Super Rugby competition.
This is what I have come up with, so please get vocal if you think any other players should fit the bill. Rest assured when Robbie Deans announces his squad soon for the Tests, there will be the familiar faces. The incumbents will figure, but my reasoning is somewhat from an outsider's point of view, based on the form this year and the "give them a go factor".
15 Bernard Foley
He has provided another attacking option to the Waratahs. He reads the game very well and his running lines have made old new again. His try against the Rebels in round nine captured my imagination with that great attacking line.
14 Dom Shipperley
Nothing like having genuine speed. His ability to finish off the try is the best of this crop of wingers. Recent wingers have gone in cycles from small to massive to sharp to big again. Shipperley fits the latest mould. By the way, the try to sink the Waratahs rates pretty highly, too.
13 Digby Ioane
Having sat some time out, nothing seems to have been lost in the excitement factor. The outside-centre has to break the line, tackle hard and sometimes do the yards of a forward.
12 Pat McCabe
His form has been outstanding this season. He's constantly getting over the advantage line and starting to add subtleties to his game. This Brumby has outplayed all his opposites.
11 Tom Kingston
Youth is great isn't it - the ability to run and have no fear. When given an opportunity this season, he hasn't disappointed. This Waratah has the ability to play other positions but is settling in nicely on the wing.
10 Christian Lealiifano
The pick of the five-eighths, he is playing with so much confidence. The only No. 10 to take the ball straight to the opposition and hold the defence. Nice offloads allow others to benefit from his running and passing skills.
9 Brendan McKibbin
Busy, niggly and aggressive yet still making the right decisions, he fits into the classic halfback role.
8 Ben Mowen
It looks to me like he's just enjoying leading from the front. Varying his role from the tight to playing a little wider. Seems to have found a new level of rugby brawn and brain.
7 Michael Hooper
Aren't these young guys supposed to fear something? No more it seems. Hooper has been on the ball, over the ball, over the ruck, on the ground, the tackler, the ball stealer, the try-scorer. It seems he can do everything.
6 Dave Dennis
He has been owning the blindside of the scrum. Perhaps his best trait this year has been his dominance with the ball in hand. He has been making a nuisance for defences by running off the ball players.
5 Scott Fardy
Another of the unsung heroes in a Brumbies team of new blood. It's all about doing your job in the second row. Collect the ball and deliver on a platter to the halfback. Fardy's ticking the boxes there.
4 Nathan Sharpe
An old dog with some new tricks. He's making it look easy. Having been there for so long, perhaps it just is. He looks to have a new vigour to play again or perhaps to prove a point.
3 Sekope Kepu
Perhaps already established but performing like there is so much to play for. Establishing a good front-row union at the Tahs.
2 Stephen Moore
I think not having the captain's armband has been the call of the century from Jake White. Playing with freedom and a high skill level. Still senior enough to call the shots but happy to just play.
1 Benn Robinson
The emotional low of missing the World Cup has spurred the man into business. Taking over the Tahs captaincy has provided a sense of calm. There is a pride in the workplace and others are following. Still the best in the business wearing the No. 1 jersey.
And to the bench.
16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Scott Higginbotham, 18 Chris Alcock, 19 Fotu Auelua, 20 Kane Douglas, 21 Joe Tomane, 22 Nic White.
All will be revealed soon but it will be interesting to see when the team is announced how far off I am with my hypothetical line-up. Either way, perhaps some of the above mentioned deserve a chance.
Twitter - burkey710