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The moment the New South Wales Blues published their 22 man squad for the first match of this year’s State of Origin series, social media was abuzz with the omission of Josh Addo-Carr.
The former Melbourne Storm and now Canterbury Bulldogs winger had been an automatic selection for Brad Fittler since 2018. He had played 12 consecutive matches for the Blues, bagging 10 tries.
A fantastic return for one of the game’s best try scorers.
But a grenade was tossed when he was left out of the squad entirely, replaced by recalled Roosters winger Daniel Tupou and 2021 debutant Brian To’o.
It could be seen as a harsh omission of Addo-Carr, spurred by the fact he is now playing for the cellar-dwelling Bulldogs.
Or it could be seen as the cut and thrust of representative selection. That Addo-Carr hasn’t necessarily done anything wrong, but both Tupou and To’o are in irresistible form.
Statistically speaking, there are a couple of very good reasons the Rooster and the Panther have been chosen over the Bulldog.
Born to Run
There is no question that Josh Addo-Carr presents a clear threat from his own end of the field. His speed and acceleration mean any space that he is given, he can exploit.
And there is definitely an argument to be made that in a star studded Blues side with the best halfback in the competition, he’d be given plenty of room to do his thing.
However, length of the field tries aren’t common and aren’t necessarily a way that sides decide they’re going to attack.
What is important though and is treasured by every NRL coach are metres from the back field.
And this is where Addo-Carr diverges from To’o and Tupou.
The Panthers’ mini fridge averages 163 metres per game from 17 runs while the Roosters’ tall and rangy aerial specialist carts the ball an average 156 metres from 16 runs. That places them third and fourth on the list on the average metres list for wingers respectively.
The Bulldogs’ speed machine though is down at 22nd position, averaging 116 metres per game from 13 runs.
He only averages four one pass hitups per match while To’o averages 11 and Tupou averages eight.
That’s not to say he shirks his workload. Addo-Carr has the most number of dummy-half carries among any winger in the competition with 27.
Unfortunately for him, there’s not a great amount of penetration with those runs. To’o and Tupou are first and second respectively for runs of eight metres or more with 11 and 10 per match.
Addo-Carr is down at 43rd spot with six runs of eight metres or more per match.
If you can’t get the defence rolling back to start your set then you’re going to have a bad time.
Things don’t really get better if you look at defence. Plenty can be said for the fact that the Dogs are one of the worst defensive sides in the competition and thus wingers can appear worse than if they are playing in a good side.
However, To’o’s tackle effectiveness of 82 percent sits him in ninth, while Tupou’s 76 percent effectiveness has him in 20th. Addo-Carr though only effects 69 (nice) percent of his tackles, sitting him in 43rd.
It’s also not great reading when you look at try causes. Again the defensive systems you play in and the quality of defenders around you can impact that.
Addo-Carr though has been linked to nine try causes this season from 11 games, landing him in ninth most for wingers. Tupou has been linked to just four from his 11 games and To’o to three from his six games.
The latter two are at 48th and 55th overall.
Well, despite the Dogs being relatively impotent with ball in hand and ranking 15th for linebreaks with only 36 for the year which puts them equal with the 16th placed Knights, Addo-Carr is responsible for nearly a third of those linebreaks.
His nine linebreaks for the year put him in seventh, directly behind sixth placed Tupou who has 11.
He’s well ahead of 45th placed Brian To’o who has broken the line just three times.
There is also something to be said for his physicality despite his relative lack of size compared to the other Blues wingers.
He averages four tackle breaks per game which is the same as To’o and one ahead of Tupou.
For everything that has been said and written, the Dogs flyer isn’t that far off his best. His average metres per game this year according to NRL.com are just four behind his career average at the Storm. 127 metres for the Dogs to 131 metres for the Storm.
Even his supposed lack of tries shouldn’t be a concern as Addo-Carr tends to score in clumps as we covered last year.
He’s managed six tries so far this year after 12 rounds. He had scored 15 at the same point in 2021, however nine of those came in a two week period when he scored six against South Sydney and three against the Dragons.
You could look at Addo-Carr’s demotion as some sort of judgement on him playing for the Bulldogs and suffering the fate of being a good winger in a bad team.
But on the balance of statistics, To’o and Tupou are currently New South Wales’ best wingers.
Of course all of this selection on statistical merit makes more sense if Stephen Crichton was starting in the centres instead of Jack Wighton, but that is a discussion for another time.
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