Sunday, June 27, 2010

Injuries as a predictor of the 2010 TriNations Series

I wrote at the end of the 2010 Super 14 Series about my theories/observations linking injury incidence within Australian provincial teams and their log placement.

Let's apply that to the upcoming 2010 Tri-Nations tournament.

This weekend, following Nathan Sharpe's injury in training, the media reported the entire Australian tight five was down to 2nd choice or lower players.

As a rough observation I believe that at about 12 of the starting 15 positions have been changed/disrupted due to injury. That's about 80% injury rate.

Without have the same knowledge of the Springboks or the All Blacks, it appears to me that the Boks have the choice of playing their starting line up, and the Blacks would not be far from this.

So the injury incidence, at a rough glance, over the last 4 wks, would rank from lowest to highest:

1. Spring Boks (lowest)
2. All Blacks
3. Australia (highest)

Will this be the order of the log at the end of the 2010 Tri-Nations tournament?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Aust v Eng 12 Jun 2010

Not sure what was worse - watching Australia scrum or the English back line attack. I don't blame the English forwards from being reluctant to give the ball to their backs. Only challenge is pick and drive from a few meters out is a very predictable thing to defend.

I expect England to do what most touring teams do and drop their performance levels as the tour progresses, for tonights 2nd test. In other words the points differential in Australia's favor to exceed 10 points.

Not that the result gives much indication of how the Wallabies will stand up to a team that not only has 15 players on the field, but one that has 15 players constituting an effective forward pack AND backline.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Reflections pre final

The Super 14 2010 season final has been played, and before I sit to watch the replay, without knowing the outcome, I share the following reflections.

Of the four teams that made the finals from the end of regular season log -

1st  Bulls
2nd Stormers
3rd Waratahs
4th  Crusaders

Only 2 of these teams have an historical expectancy of winning, and they - the Crusaders and Bulls - played each other in the semi-final, meaning only 1 (the Bulls as it turned out) could progress.

The other semi was played between two teams that do not have this historical expectantcy of winning.

The Bulls and the Stormers met overnight in Soweto, SA, for the title of 2010 Super 14 Champion.

Bulls to win. No reshaping of history in relation to teams who have won a Super competition during the last 18 or so years.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Injuries correlate with team success

Back in the early 1990s I tested my theory that the incidence and severity of injuries in a rugby team is inversely correlated with team success i.e. the more injuries you have, the lower down the competition ladder you finish.

I tested that theory and confirmed the hypothesis.  The Brumbies noted this and intentially, with my support, sought to replicate this in the second half of the 1990s and the early 2000s.  With success.

In 2010, I suggest that this theory is borne out again in at least the four Australian team - that their position on the ladder at the end of the 2010 Super 14 season will be inversely correlated with their injury stats.

First it was the Force to suffer a 'horrific injury run'. They will finish the lowest of the Australian team this  year.

Then it was the Brumbies to suffer a 'horrific injury run'.  They are currently sitting second bottom of the four Australian team, with three games left to change that.

The Waratahs have not attracted this level of 'horrific injury run', nor have the Reds. They sit 2 and 1 of the four Australian teams currently respectively. No surprise here.

The conspiracy of injury will ensure that few if any pick up on this pattern, and few if any learn from this and change their approach. The cycle will continue and the medical, therapy and pharamcuetical industries will continue to be the primary beneficiaries.

The Red's Dream Draw in 2010

Let's go through the dream draw:

Rd 1 vs NSW Waratahs - home game, giving them a much greater chance of winning.

Rd 2 vs Crusaders - home game and early season - the best time to play a typically slow to get going team like this

Rd 3 vs Blues - home game against another Kiwi team, giving them a much greater chance of winning

The worst way to start the season is

1. play on the road

2. play South African team in SA - as they are better earlier in the season, compared with NZ teams that are more likely to be a bit off pace in the first few games.

So the first 3 games were heaven-sent, ideal for a team that needed to get confidence back. The fact that they were 1-2 win / loss was only a result of their initial dis-belief in themselves. This was a dream draw to start, and their 2 close losses gave them enough confidence to build upon.

Rd 4 vs Chiefs - played away, but against a team coming back from SA. Away games don't get much better.

Rd 5 vs Force - at home, against the lowest ranked team - doesn't get much easier than this.

Rd 6 - bye.

So the second 25% of the regular season games again are based on a draw that doesn't get any better.

Now for the third 25% of the regular season:

Rd 7 vs Cheetahs - an away game against a team competing with the Cats to be the worst SA team this season.

Rd 8 vs Sharks - an away game that most years would have been tough, but this season this team has struggled to win anything and is sitting as low on the table as the Cats and Cheetahs.

Rd 9 vs Cats - an away game against a team that will probably not win a game this season.

So the third 25% of the regular season games become the 3rd block of 3 games that are nothing short of heaven sent.

Now for the final 4 games:

Rd 10 vs Bulls - at home, but tough because first game back from a road trip - but this is the Bulls 4th and final road game, one they may never have won (i.e. last game on the ANZ road trip) - so for a game against the Bulls it doesn't get much better - Reds at home, Bulls last game on tour.

Rd 11 vs Stormers - at home, with a team peforming better on the road this season than the Bulls but still better than playing them at their home. The Stormers 3rd game on the road.

Rd 12 vs Brumbies - away, which is tough [yet to be played]

Rd 13 vs Hurricanes - away - tought but not as tough as say playing a strong SA team early in the year at altitude [yet to be played]. If the Hurricanes are out of final contentions by then their committment to winning the game will be lower

Rd 14 vs Highlanders - at home, against the lowest ranking NZ team [yet to be played] - should be a given

So the Reds had 9 games to get in the groove, before having really challenging games. Ideal draw for a team, especially one rebuilding their self-belief.

In summary the best draw for an Australian team is one where you:

1. have home games to get your season rolling
2. play NZ teams early in the season, especially Cantebury. They bare not ususally at their best yet,
3. play SA teams at lower altidues when you do tour SA
4. play teams from colder climates at home earlier in the season where you have heat acclimatization advantage
5. play the weakest SA team on your road trip to SA
6. play the strongest SA teams late in the season, at home, and late in their road trip schedule
7. play the Brumbies at home early in the season so you have a heat adaptation advantage AND their unique winter dew is not a factor

Look familiar? Sumes up the Reds drawer (except for one point).

On the flip side, the toughest draw for an Australian team is one where you:

1. go on the road to SA up front
2. play the strongest SA teams early in the season at their home grounds
3. play SA teams at altidue
4. play teams from colder climates at home later in the season where you lose your heat acclimatization advantage
5. play the NZ teams later in the draw, especially Cantebury
6. play the SA teams at home early in their road trips
7. play the Brumbies away late in the season where you don't have a heat adaptation advantage AND their unique winter dew IS a factor

The Reds can win the 2010 Super Title

The Queensland Reds can win the 2010 Super 14 title. With only 3 games to go, they sit equal 2nd on points with 2 other teams, and 4 on for and againsts.

In fact, this could be their best chance of winning because:

1. They have had a dream draw in 2010.
2. They are arguably the freshest team in the competition
3. They have the lowest injury rate of Australian teams
4. Other teams are still not fully prepared to treat them with the respect they deserve as 2009 cellar dwellars.

This will change in 2011 because:

1. They may not have the dream draw
2. I predict their injury rate may rise in 2011 and 2012.
3. Other teams will have planned their years in advance with the Reds as a tough game to win.

The fading point

Each session I look for a point at which a team fades and fails to recovery. The best example in the 2010 Super 14 season so far, with 3 games to go, has been the Chiefs.

A top 4 team for 3 games, they have not recovered from their loss at home to the Reds. If anything they have faded further. That's a very early season fade, and their ability to recover with so many games left may have many insiders scratching their head.

The most spectacular fade award historically and perenially would go to NSW. Until Coach McKenzie broke the mould, probably by applying training volumes used by Queensland during the 1990s, which for a very brief period Coach Dwyer used (1994 domestic tests vs. South Africa).

Now it appears Coach McKenzie is using these same methods on the originating team, as coach of the Queensland Reds. At least with the Reds he has a team that has been a winner, unlike NSW who as a provincial team have not won a championship since the introduction of Super Rugby in 1991 - that's nearly 20 years of failing to win the title.

One of the greatest tests of a teams workload and related recovery is their ability to win their first game home after being on the road.  The Brumbies did it but they were playing the low ranked Cats. Queensland did it with a top of the table clash against the Bulls. The Chiefs failed this test, not they they were the only ones to in the 2010 season.