NRL second year syndrome and the Supercoach effect

Canberra Raiders back-rower John Bateman

So you’ve heard of second-year syndrome in the NRL.

The theory that the first year a gun rookie is exposed to the NRL they are new and catch teams and coaches off guard.

But come the second season, the team of coaches from all clubs have fully analysed their game.

That they have coached their players in ways to negate the strengths of the gun rookie resulting in a drop in performance.

Well, today we’re going to look at the theory in a SuperCoach light.

To do this properly, firstly, we have to look back a bit before we look forward.

Please note some of the players we are looking at below may have made their debuts earlier but for the purposes of this SuperCoach analysis we are looking at the first year they became relevant SuperCoach guns.

Newcastle Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga

Then we will analyse how they fared in their second year.

So, as an experiment, we have picked six of the best SuperCoach breakout players in 2017 and 2018 to see how they performed the following year.

Below are the breakout stars of 2018 and how they fared in 2019.

Player 2018 SC points 2018 SC Avg. 2019 SC points 2019 SC Avg. SC Avg. +/-
Kalyn Ponga 1313 66 1365 68 +2
Jamayne Isaako 1337 56 949 45 -11
Jai Arrow 1352 64 1053 62 -2
Matt Lodge 1269 53 1315 63 +10
Shaun Lane 1303 54 1286 56 +2
Reimis Smith 573 52 848 37 -15

To note:

– For Ponga, an increase in SuperCoach points from goal-kicking helped him slightly better his average PPG despite the failed five-eighth experiment early in the season.

– Isaako was the opposite with a significant decrease in SuperCoach points from goals.
He dropped from scoring 15.7PPG for goal kicks in 2018 to 9.4PPG in 2019.

– Matt Lodge’s increased role and minutes clearly had a lot to do with his improved average.

Brisbane Broncos prop Matt Lodge

– Reimis Smith dropped significantly which is probably consistent with the erratic nature of the CTW position for most players.

Below are the breakout stars of 2017 and how they fared in 2018.

Players 2017 SC points 2017 SC Ave. 2018 SC points 2018 SC Ave. SC Ave. +/-
Angus Crichton 1510 69 1521 69 0
Esan Marsters 693 53 1458 61 +8
Coen Hess 1331 58 1345 58 0
Nick Cotric 1189 50 1157 48 -2
Lachlan Fitzgibbon 807 58 1293 62 +4
Dylan Edwards 806 58 405 51 -7
Matt Eisenhuth 623 57 1297 54 -3

To note:

– Esan Marsters gained the goal-kicking duties for the Tigers in 2018 hence the sharp increase in average.

Former Wests Tigers centre Esan Marsters

IN SUMMARY

So what can we deduce from the two samples?

It’s hard to get anything conclusive out of the data. There was no major correlation in why scores differentiated.

The main note to be taken when considering boom rookies from the prior season is that forwards will naturally be more likely to gain an increase in minutes than their backline counterparts.

A likely increase or similar minutes means forwards are the safest options if concern arises over second year syndrome.

Of the seven forwards listed, just two (Eisenhuth and Arrow) produced smaller averages, both by minor margins.

Casting aside players who averaged around 80 minutes last season (Nikora, Bateman), this would suggest the likes of Luke Garner, Payne Haas, Cameron Murray and David Fifita are most likely set for SuperCoach improvement.

Brisbane Broncos back-rower David Fifita

Backs are already playing the full 80, and if they’ve had stats to propel them to the top of SuperCoach charts, they are far more likely to struggle to attain similar numbers.

Edwards, Isaako and Smith all experienced significant drops having been unable to back up their previous season’s exploits.

All in all, second-year syndrome impacts backs greater than forwards, but not significantly enough to suggest it should be a major concern when selecting your team.

 

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