Will 2021 Debunk the 50+ Points Stat?
by Jordan Forbes
Like many Punters and Dribblers, there isn’t much I enjoy more than a good old fashion stat. Whether it’s from Dave Middleton from the long-gone The Footy Show, or Rain Man himself going Balls Deep on About Even, stats have the ability to back up a narrative being pushed, or equally, tear one down.
One thing that I do enjoy more than hearing a well-crafted stat, is trying to find stats out of a statement. That is why a statement from Bloke in a Bar’s own Kempy really piqued my interest. A few weeks ago, Kempy proposed that conceding 50+ in the season 2021 is ‘different’ than other years. What really piqued my interest in this statement was the use of the word ‘different’. It is a vague term in this context, yet it seems like the most accurate description of 50+ games this season.
As most NRL fans know, conceding 50+ during the season is a death sentence. No team has been able to win the premiership after being on the receiving end of a scoreline of that nature. Yet, you can’t help but feel that Kempy’s statement of them being ‘different’ in 2021 stands true. Each week we watch the Rabbitohs notice up win after win in their hunt for a top 2 position, but is it all in false hope as they have conceded 50+ against the current top 2 sides?
You don’t need to be a rugby league statistician to know that in this season we have seen a dramatic increase in 50+ score lines. At the time of writing this, there has been a total of 11 50+ score lines in the 2021 season. This is a dramatic increase from the 2020 season where we only saw 7 games with 50+ score lines over the entire season. 2019 posting an even lower number with only 5.
With only 160 games being played in the 2021 season at the time of writing this, the 11 50+ scorelines equates to 6.88% of the total games. This percentage is a massive increase on previous years. In the 2020 season, the same season we saw the 6-Again rule be implemented into the game, only had 4.14% of the total games cracked the 50+. Only a few years ago in the 2017 season did we only see 1.99% of the 201 total games cross the milestone. At the current rate of the 2021 season, we should see another 3-4 games where a team concedes 50+.
As previously mentioned, the Rabbitohs very much seem to be one of the teams in focus when discussing 50+ score lines in 2021. In past years, when you thought of teams to concede 50+ you often thought of the bottom 4-5 teams coming up against the highflyers of the season. However, in the 2021 season, with teams such as the Rabbitohs conceding 50+ not once, but twice, are we seeing those higher-ranked teams on the wrong end of the score lines? In short, no. Based on the average position of all teams to concede 50+, 2021 actually produced the lowest-ranked average of the past 5 seasons. This has in fact been a slow trend over the past 5 seasons.
Apart from 2018, the average position of teams conceding 50+ has been decreasing year on year, starting at 9.0 in 2017, down to 11.3 this season. That is a decrease of 2.3. On the other end of the scale, the average position of the teams dishing out these thumpings has fluctuated over the past 5 years. It peaked as high as 3.6 in the 2020 season, and as low as 5.1 in 2018, a season where we saw one of the closest ends to a regular season, with all of the top 8 teams finishing within 1 win of each other.
With the average positions not reflecting the season, maybe the margins can shine some light on this season of 50+ blow-outs? Again, no. In a season where blow-out scores are the hot topic of discussion, the average margin of games where a team has raised the bat for a 50 is actually the lowest it has been in the past 3 seasons. In 2019, the average margin was 50.6, which means that statistically if you gave the losing team a 50 point start, they would still not be collecting the 2 points more times than not. This average margin dramatically dropped in 2020 to 43.0, with it dropping again this season down to 41.3. Prior to 2019, 2018 and 2017 produced 38.1 and 40.0 averages respectively.
After analyzing all of these stats regarding 50+ score lines, the frequency of these score lines is the only one to stand out as abnormal. And that is where the problem of ‘different’ comes in. As fans, the sheer amount of 50+ score lines this season has thrown us for a loop. While I love that stats have the ability to shine a light on aspects of the game we seem to overlook as fans, they are not the whole game and you can’t use them as definitive proof of an outcome. Does the fact that the Rabbitohs have notched up dual 50+ games this season rule them out of being victors on grand final day? Maybe, but I am excited to see how this ‘different’ season pans out.
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