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2005 GRAND FINAL PREVIEW: Wests Tigers
vs. North Queensland Cowboys
The Big One is here and without beating around the bush here is the NSC 2005 Grand Final Preview.
In an exclusive look at the playmakers and key try scorers involved in the decider, NSC delivers the Try Involvement Statistic which breaks down each players involvement level in the scoring exploits of each side. How it works is simple, each player gains either a Try or Try Creation Assist from every try scored by their side which adds up to form their Try Involvement Total. At the end of the season/playoffs the total number of Try Involvements the player has is divided against the total number of tries their team has scored to give the NSC Playmaking Ratio which definitively shows the true worth of attacking players to their side.
M Bowen, Cowboys Season Try Involvement Stats Tries: 24 NSC Try Creation Assists: 26 Playmaking Ratio (Team Tries/Try Involvement): 37.1%
This translates to Bowen being involved in 37.1% of the Cowboys 124 total tries scored in 2005.
For reference purposes the Season Try Totals for the Cowboys and Tigers are: NQL: 124 WTG: 135
M Bowen, Cowboys TRY: 24 TCA: 26 PR: 37.1%
B Hodgson, Tigers TRY: 15 TCA: 30 PR: 33.3%
M Sing, Cowboys TRY: 15 TCA: 6 PR: 16.9%
T Williams, Cowboys TRY: 18 TCA: 4 PR: 17.7%
D Fitzhenry, Tigers TRY: 9 TCA: 4 PR: 9.6%
P Richards, Tigers TRY: 19 TCA: 9 PR: 20.7%
J Hannay, Cowboys TRY: 7 TCA: 4 PR: 8.9%
P Bowman, Cowboys TRY: 9 TCA: 7 PR: 12.9%
S Elford, Tigers TRY: 4 TCA: 11 PR: 11.1%
P Whatuira, Tigers TRY: 18 TCA: 11 PR: 21.5%
J Thurston, Cowboys TRY: 5 TCA: 47 PR: 41.9%
B Marshall, Tigers TRY: 15 TCA: 32 PR: 34.8%
B Firman, Cowboys TRY: 2 TCA: 10 PR: 27.9% (Firman only played in the last 10 Cowboys games where they scored 43 tries)
S Prince, Tigers TRY: 12 TCA: 62 PR: 54.8%
A Payne, Cowboys TRY: 5 TCA: 29 PR: 27.4%
R Farah, Tigers TRY: 8 TCA: 43 PR: 37.8%
D Faiumu, Cowboys TRY: 5 TCA: 18 PR: 18.5%
J Smith, Cowboys TRY: 5 TCA: 5 PR: 8.1%
L O?Donnell, Cowboys TRY: 2 TCA: 6 PR: 6.5%
L Fulton, Tigers TRY: 7 TCA: 8 PR: 11.1%
D Halatau, Tigers TRY: 5 TCA: 9 PR: 10.4%
B Galea, Tigers TRY: 4 TCA: 10 PR: 10.4%
T Payten, Tigers TRY: 1 TCA: 10 PR: 8.1%
THE GAME TACTICS/STATS
+ The Tigers spread the ball around the field in general play better than any other side, they have two major ways of doing this on the back of a positive, basic, although not dominant go-forward: ? Farah links with Prince who invariably finds a running Marshall or Hodgson who then link with the outside backs. ? Farah finds a prop or second rower (Payten and O?Neill mostly) who stops just before the advantage line props and spins the ball wide to Prince, Marshall or Hodgson who then take the ball wider.
+ In the attacking 20 the Tigers love to use quick hands to hit the edge of the defensive ruck. This simple play has been remarkably effective in opening gaps on the fringes and had led to many tries by simply outnumbering their opponents.
+ The general kicking game revolves around Scott Prince (291 total kicks this year) who drops in behind a decoy forward to get his clearing kick away. Robbie Farah (76) is also a great attacking option out of dummy half with his left foot kick. ? Prince leads all Tigers playmaker with 17 kicks to setup tries; this includes 8 from Cross Kicks, 6 from Grubbers, 1 from a Bomb and 2 from Chip Kicks. ? Farah is second with 6 kicks to setup tries; 5 from Grubber Kicks near the line and 1 from a Chip Kick ? also near the line. ? Notably Benji Marshall has setup no tries from kicks this year.
+ Second phase play can be very effective off the back of forwards particularly; the Tigers have 35 total TAC from Offloads. ? John Skandalis has 5 Offloads to setup tries. ? Todd Payten and Robbie Farah have 3. ? Liam Fulton, Dene Halatau and Bronson Harrison all have 2, and Mark O?Neill, Chris Heighington and Bryce Gibbs have 1 each. ? In the backs, Pat Richards and Shane Elford have 3 each, while Brett Hodgson and Scott Prince have 2.
+ The Tigers have setup 16 tries from line breaks; Hodgson (3), Prince (2) and Marshall (2) lead the way.
+ The Passing game has been as mentioned above the key to the Tigers success; here is a look at who has been the most critical to the attacking game. ? Scott Prince 41 TAC ? 12 from Short Passes, 24 from Cut Out Passes and 5 from Inside Balls. ? Robbie Farah 32 TAC ? 10 from Short Passes, 20 from Cut Out Passes and 2 from Inside Balls. ? Scott Prince 28 TAC ? 19 from Short Passes and 9 from Cut Out Passes. ? Brett Hodgson 23 TAC ? 11 from Short Passes and 12 from Cut Out Passes. ? Ben Galea 10 TAC ? 7 from Short Passes and 3 from Cut Out Passes. ? Paul Whatuira 9 TAC ? 5 from Short Passes, 1 from Cut Out Passes and 3 from Inside Balls ? Todd Payten 7 TAC ? 3 from Short Passes and 4 from Cut Out Passes. ? Shane Elford 7 TAC ? 7 from Short Passes.
+ The Cowboys push the ball forward through their big pack and use the space created to get the ball into the hands of Johnathan Thurston and Matthew Bowen at every opportunity. Brett Firman operates as the link man rather than the go-to playmaker. Thurston and Bowen love to drift into the line and step to either side of the ruck to hit an angled runner on the edges. And if they don?t pass the ball, they can slice through the half gap the doubt in the defensive line created while they waited for the ball to be passed. The game plan looks to be: ? Aaron Payne and David Faiumu direct their big boppers either side of the ruck on consecutive plays to force the defensive line to compress to cope with the battering rams, which in turn opens up space on the edges for Thurston and Bowen to exploit. ? Against the Eels in particular the Cowboys switched the ball across the back of the ruck regularly, aiming to have the defensive line commit to one side on their initial charge and then have to turn and reform on the other side of the ruck. This wore the Parramatta pack down in the middle of the field and the Cowboys two soft tries before halftime showed just how effective the tactic had been in wearing down the middle left of the defensive line..
+ In the attacking 20 the Cowboys tend to have their dummy half throw a short ball to the first receiver drifting to one side of the field who then steps on the gas goes to the line and throws a cut out pass to one of a number of straight runners outside him. Payne and Faiumu also love to run from dummy half near the line especially near the posts as the defensive line expects them to go wide to Firman, Thurston or Bowen.
+ The general kicking game revolves around Johnathan Thurston (185 total kicks this year) who operates effectively from both sides of the ruck. Brett Firman (69 in 10 games) is the secondary option along with Matthew Bowen (98) while Aaron Payne (54) is a handy kicker out of dummy half or first receiver. ? Bowen leads all Cowboys playmakers with 7 kicks to setup tries; including 4 from Cross Kicks, 2 from Grubbers and 1 from a Chip Kick. ? Thurston is second with 6 kicks to setup tries; 4 from grubbers, 1 from a Cross Kick and 1 from a Chip Kick. ? Firman has only 2 Grubber Kicks for tries this year, while David Faiumu also has 2 (1 Bomb/1 Grubber)
+ Second phase play can be very effective off the back of forwards particularly; the Cowboys have 27 total TAC from Offloads. ? Luke O?Donnell has 5 Offloads to setup tries. ? Carl Webb has 4. ? Paul Rauhihi, Steve Southern and David Faiumu have 1 each. ? In the backs, Matt Sing, Johnathan Thurston and Aaron Payne all have 3, while Matthew Bowen and Josh Hannay have 2 each.
+ The Cowboys have setup 18 tries from line breaks; Thurston (4), Bowen (2), Firman (2), Bowman (2), Sing (2) and Aaron Payne (2) lead the way.
+ The Passing game is also a huge factor in the Cowboys success; here is a look at who has been the most critical to the attacking game. ? Johnathan Thurston 32 TAC ? 15 from Short Passes, 14 from Cut Out Passes and 3 from Inside Balls. ? Aaron Payne 23 TAC ? 6 from Short Passes, 14 from Cut Out Passes and 3 from Inside Balls. ? Matthew Bowen 15 TAC ? 9 from Short Passes, 5 from Cut Out Passes and 1 from Inside Balls. ? David Faiumu 15 TAC ? 6 from Short Passes, 7 from Cut Out Passes and 2 from Inside Balls. ? Brett Firman 6 TAC ? 2 from Short Passes and 4 from Cut Out Passes.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Wests Tigers by 16 points.
As impressive as the Cowboys were in dispatching the Eels last weekend, they come up against a team full of confidence, momentum and self belief who has defeated 11 of their last 14 opponents (including the Cowboys twice). The Tigers capitalised on their possession rate in the first half against the Dragons and held on with the type of tenacity and desperation that signifies a focused and hungry football team. North Queensland put it all together against the Eels and will enter the game in the right state of mind but they have not had the same buildup of momentum the Tigers have over the last couple of months. Against the Eels they got to play their perfect game of bashing it up the middle and letting their wizards create magic on the edge of the ruck. But against the Tigers their forwards have failed to get on top in their last two matches and the way the Tigers throw the ball around uses up a lot of the energy the Cowboys big men need to lay the go-forward foundations.
Momentum, ball movement and having played in two consecutive finals matches that required an awful lot of self belief and defensive desperation gives the Tigers the thumbs up for Premiers in 2005.