State of Origin halves: Our data shows NSW must pick Reynolds and Pearce

Chris Stead 19 May 2016

state of origin 2

We’ve crunched the numbers based on club form in 2016 to see how every potential pairing would fare against Queensland.

It is State of Origin time and NSW is desperate to make the right decision on the highly contested halves pairing. After all, they’re up against Jonathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk, mainstays of the nine victories Queensland has earned in the past ten series – daunting opponents to say the least. Last year, it was Mitchell Pearce and Trent Hodkinson in the NSW halves spots, but a change in club for the latter, and a romance with a dog for the former, have thrown the concept of “incumbents” into disarray. So who should be the NSW State of Origin halves?

We have the answer.

We’ve collated the year-to-date statistics of all the potential NSW halves pairings. We’ve then compared these against the minutes played this year to work out how much each pairing of halves, as a duo, contribute to a team on average over 80 minutes. Using this data, we can establish – based on current club form – how much a halves pairing will contribute to the NSW team over the course of 80 minutes in our nine key metrics. We’ve also compared that to the form of Thurston and Cronk to establish where the NSW options sit against their foe.

We then ranked each of the halves pairings across the metrics, and added up that ranking to establish which halves pairing can provide the most amount of value for NSW based on this year’s real world data. Here are all the key rankings determined by that data.The lower the score, the better the pairing.

State of Origin Halves ComparisonTotal
J Reynolds/Pearce35
Maloney/Pearce41
J Reynolds/Maloney48
Moylan/Maloney51
Maloney/Townsend52
Maloney/A Reynolds55
J Reynolds/Hodkinson62
Maloney/Sezer64
Pearce/Hodkinson65
G Bird/Maloney66
Austin/Sezer70
Soward/Pearce70
Maloney/Hodkinson79

Who can beat Thurston and Cronk?

Thurston and Cronk form the benchmark that any NSW pairing will have to match and better. On current form across the opening 11 rounds of the 2016 season, the Queensland halves pairing of Jonathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk will together contribute the following value to their state’s State of Origin performance:

  • Runs = 15
  • Metres Gained = 96m
  • Errors = 0.9
  • Tackles = 30
  • Missed Tackles = 6
  • Kicks = 22
  • Try Assists = 1.7
  • Line Breaks = 0.5
  • Tries = 0.7

So how does each NSW pairing measure up against that? You can see the results across each of those metrics in the chart below.

And there you have it rugby league fans, the data does not lie. According to the real-world performance information from this year thus far, NSW State of Origin’s halves pairing should be Josh Reynolds and Mitchell Pearce. In the event that the latter isn’t considered to have had enough game time this year to be in contention (or stands himself down as he has previously suggested), then Josh Reynolds and James Maloney are the next best pairing.

Got that Laurie?

All the data

Here's how we calculated the scores for each pairing. You can sort on any column by clicking on the heading.

State of Origin Halves ComparisonRunsMetres GainedErrorsTacklesMissed TacklesKicksTry AssistsLine BreaksTries
Austin/Sezer13981.4315110.40.91
G.Bird/Maloney282351.746971.10.30.4
J.Reynolds/Hodkinson151031.3366141.20.60.2
J.Reynolds/Maloney191611.6367151.30.80.6
J.Reynolds/Pearce211731.8415201.30.50.7
Maloney/A.Reynolds171491.8396181.20.30.7
Maloney/Hodkinson151171.33681310.40.4
Maloney/Pearce211861.8417191.10.30.9
Maloney/Sezer161331.3327140.70.81
Maloney/Townsend171511.6387121.30.50.8
Moylan/Maloney231961.327791.40.50.6
Pearce/Hodkinson161281.64161810.10.5
Soward/Pearce151291.7366240.90.10.6
Thurston/Cronk15960.9306221.70.50.7

Half pairings ranked

State of Origin Halves ComparisonRunsMetres GainedErrorsTacklesMissed TacklesKicksTry AssistsLine BreaksTriesTotal
J.Reynolds/Pearce341121225535
Maloney/Pearce331127372341
J.Reynolds/Maloney55677622848
Moylan/Maloney2211371215851
Maloney/Townsend666671025452
Maloney/A Reynolds671153459555
J.Reynolds/Hodkinson10121737541362
Maloney/Sezer8811177129164
Pearce/Hodkinson81062349121165
G.Bird/Maloney11911313791266
Austin/Sezer1313512111131170
Soward/Pearce10997311112870
Maloney/Hodkinson101117129981279

All data sourced from official NRL statistics.

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