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On the money, on the ball - stats the way for Wallabies


Matthew Burke

Matt Burke adapts the <em>Moneyball </em>theory to Rugby.

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

30 comments so far

  • On current performance, a fairly good team Burkey....

    You don't have enough front rowers on the bench, so you need a prop that can play both tight and loose, so maybe Benny A in and Higginbotham out, simply cause Fardy can play 6. I also like Fardy's aggression. He has that bit of mongel you like in a lock.

    I would also swap Douglas for Simmons.

    Lealiifano was a no brainer but his horrible injury last night means that Beale should come in. Beale has played well at 15 and was brilliant at 10 on Friday. Also has a proven track record for the Wallabies.

    Tomane grows each week. He is that sort of player that defenders hang off because they are unsure of he will go flat out or dance and he is developing a first class offload. He is also running excellent lines.

    It would have been amazing to think at the start of the season that a Wallabies squad could be without Pocock but agree that Hooper has been nothing short of phenomenal. I think Pocock is struggling with the weight of captaincy. It is hard to have your head buried in every second ruck and guide the team at the same time.

    Tahed 4 Life
    Date and time
    May 06, 2012, 9:18AM
    • An interesting looking side. Sad that Lealifano might not get his chance this year as he was playing great. Only real problem with this team is the bench. Need another prop surely? Also 16-22 seem a bit out of the traditional order.

      Date and time
      May 06, 2012, 9:22AM
      • Nice effort Matt and agree with the majority of your team.
        Last nights Brumbies V Waratahs match did however sort out the claims of some of your team and left a few short.
        Kingston was overwhelmed defensively and ineffective running in traffic. He has potential as you say on the wing, but not yet for mine.
        McKibbin was too easily isolated by the Brumbies 'in your face defence', and at other times took the wrong option of when to pass/run/kick. He was also comprehensively outplayed by White.
        Dennis has been a stand out. I would love to see him play with a mobile and skillful pack like the Brumbies.
        With Lealiifino out injured and McKibbin not making my team, I'll have to now find a goal kicker.....perhaps Cooper as he can do everything.

        Ideas Man
        Date and time
        May 06, 2012, 9:31AM
        • In fairness, Kingston has been brilliant on the wing, but has not looked anywhere near as good at outside centre. If you looked purely at the games where he played on the wing, he would be in the mix for sure.

          I'd probably have Tomane in the starting lineup ahead of Shipperley. I think he has been outstanding. Shipperley by comparision is a bit one dimensional, relying purely on speed.

          Foley has been the pick of the fullbacks in my opinion, but Mogg is not far behind.

          And I will be amazed if Dave Dennis doesn't get a game for the Wallabies this year, he has been a standout in an often ordinary Waratahs team. Has a high work rate, runs the ball well and just seems to be everywhere for the full 80 minutes.

          Date and time
          May 07, 2012, 12:09PM
      • The Wallabies have a 52% test win stat, 68% loss record to NZ.
        If I turned up to my job and got 52% of my work correct, I would not last more than a few days, if not sacked, then my employer would go broke.
        Wait a minute, isn't the ARU hemorrhaging money???

        Date and time
        May 06, 2012, 10:23AM
        • I think this analysis would also get you sacked. Clearly a 52% win ration does not equate to getting 52% of your work correct.

          Date and time
          May 06, 2012, 11:26AM
        • Ed.....A 52% win rate is getting 52% correct, whats your point? they are getting 48% incorrect.

          Date and time
          May 06, 2012, 6:00PM
        • A 52 per cent win rate is exactly that  - a win rate (Deans's win rate BTW is 60 per cent).

          It's not necessarily a reflection of whether things are being done correctly.

          Look at Nick Mallet's tenure with Italy. Most people agree he did a good job, which means he got a lot of things right correct. His win rate was 27%.

          Date and time
          May 06, 2012, 9:15PM
      • Matt -

        Three Aloysians in the backline and a Pius bloke at #7? Have the Joeys poaching brigade been on strike the last decade?

        Steve McQueen
        Date and time
        May 06, 2012, 10:29AM
        • Why would anyone in their right mind leave a school like Aloysius? There as some things a cheque book can't buy.

          Date and time
          May 07, 2012, 10:08AM

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