Finding the best players from last season will give us knowledge of who to look out for in the 2020 season. Over recent years we have seen the role of wingers drastically change. They’ve gone from small speedsters with great footwork, to brute players who are shaped like forwards.
This data analysis will take into consideration all the stats from the 2019 NRL season and compile a report on who the best two wingers are. We will only consider players who have played at least eight games to make sure the results are reliable. We will identify the best players in attack, defence, and power.
A winger’s main objective is to attack. We often see wingers on the receiving end of a great cut-out pass or sweeping move. Their finishing has improved over past seasons, showing great acrobatic skill to score near-impossible tries.
The first graph analyses each player’s tries per game and linebreaks per game. These two statistics are a good representation of a winger’s attacking play.
One player stands out, topping tries per game and coming second in linebreaks; Parramatta Eels’ Maika Sivo. The Fijian giant, standing at 1.86m tall and 105kg in weight, has impressed massively in his debut season. The 26-year-old was discovered playing in his home country before being brought in by the Eels. He scores 0.88 tries and makes 1.08 linebreaks per game.
Melbourne Storm’s Josh Addo-Carr tops the league in linebreaks per game with 1.09. The 24-year-old is one of the fastest players in the competition, meaning he can easily slice through defensive lines. Addo-Carr has also weighed in with 0.69 tries per game.
New Zealand Warriors’ huge winger Ken Maumalo has the second-most tries per game with 0.73. Standing at 1.96m tall, he is a perfect target for cross-field kicks. The New Zealand international has scored 17 tries in his six caps.
The North Queensland Cowboys’ experienced winger Kyle Feldt has the fourth-most tries with 0.68 per game. The Cowboys stalwart has consistently scored tries over the past few seasons. In 2019 he also had 0.81 linebreaks per game.
Attacking through power
As mentioned previously, wingers have begun attacking through power rather than footwork. We will measure each player’s power through their ability to break tackles, as well as their ability to get their arms free to offload.
There is one clear standout here. David Nofoaluma was undoubtedly the most powerful winger in the 2019 NRL. The Wests Tigers player has been at the club since 2013, scoring 61 tries in 122 games. He has 1.64 offloads and 5.35 tackle busts per game.
Josh Mansour of the Penrith Panthers is just behind in terms of offloads, but falls considerably behind with his ability to break tackles. The 30-year-old had 1.63 offloads per game, but only 2.68 tackle busts.
The St. George Illawarra Dragons’ Jordan Perreira has the second most tackle busts per 90 with 4.54. After falling out of favour towards the end of the season, Perreira has impressed in the first few rounds of the 2020 season. His hard and careless running technique means that he is very difficult to tackle.
Apart from these three standouts, Brendan Elliot impresses in both statistics. The Manly Warringah Sea Eagles man has 0.77 offloads and 3.61 tackle busts per game.
Outside backs making metres is so important for their respective teams. When receiving the ball after an opponent’s attack ends, it is then the responsibility of the wingers and full-back to take their team up the pitch whilst their tired forwards make their way back on side. We have calculated this through their metres run and kick return metres.
Maumalo stands out here again, with great numbers in both stats. He has 29.09 kick return metres and 190.74 metres run per game, averaging 10.3 metres per run.
On the opposite side of things, Corey Thompson also impresses. The 30-year-old spent last season with the Wests Tigers but has since moved to the Gold Coast Titans. Alternating between wing and full-back, he managed to make 50.55 kick return metres and 133.77 metres run per game.
Maika Sivo is also above average in both stats too, with 32.08 kick return metres and 146.32 metres run per game.
Brisbane Broncos winger Corey Oates, who has been moved to the second-row in the 2020 season, was very impressive in 2019. His huge build makes him the perfect forward. However, on the wing, he ran 145.23 metres and had 29.32 kick return metres per game, with an average of 11.34 metres per run.
Most of the tackling is done by the forwards and inside-backs, but the wingers are so important in defending attacking sequences. They often have to jam in to shut the passer down in the event of an overlap. We’ve analysed each winger’s defence by their tackles made, missed tackles, and tackle efficiency.
One of the best wingers the NRL has ever seen impresses the most here. Now at the Sydney Roosters, Brett Morris has had an incredible career. The 33-year-old shows regularly that age is just a number. Although he faces a high number of tackles per game (9.2), he only misses one tackle per game. This all means he completes 77.71% of his tackles, which is impressive.
Panthers youngster Brian To’o has the highest tackle efficiency with 88.05%. The 21-year-old makes 5.46 tackles per game, only missing 0.6 of them.
Sivo shows up well here once again, with the Fijian flyer proving that try-scoring isn’t his only ability. He only makes 3.44 tackles per game, but misses just 0.4 of these, giving him a tackle efficiency of 83.44%.
The below players have impressed the most in one or more of the categories analysed. So now we come to the question at the heart of this article; who are the best two wingers?
Sivo is the best attacking player, with Addo-Carr just behind, followed by Maumalo. They all have similar defensive stats, with Sivo just edging it. Nofoaluma is by far the most creative player, however, he lacks the attacking threat that a winger needs to have. Along with his attacking threat, Maumalo is by far the most powerful, with Sivo and Addo-Carr just behind.
This data analysis has shown us how competitive the wingers are within the NRL. Although some players are close to each other in terms of stats, Maiko Sivo stands out. In his debut season, he has by far been the best winger in most aspects of the game. The second winger spot is much trickier, however. Addo-Carr deserves an honourable mention. But Ken Maumalo takes the second wing spot. In the modern game, a winger needs power and an ability to finish. The Warriors winger has both of these in abundance.