Did you see the reports recently that the NRL is planning to introduce GPS-fitted balls so forward passes can be monitored by satellite?
We already know that GPS chips are embedded in some players’ jerseys so the amount of running they do is monitored by strength and conditioning staff. I wonder how long it will be before every player wears a GPS chip and the ball also has one embedded so it’s possible to track which player is doing what and how each team is moving the ball around the field when they’re in possession?
If you had that sort of information it would make it a lot easier to understand the patterns being used by teams so you could devise your own team patterns to either shut down the opposition attack or to break open their defence.
There’s been a lot of comment this week regarding some members of the Wallaby back row seagulling. I wanted to explore that topic further so I went looking for some GPS data that might provide answers, but of course the technology doesn’t exist yet.
So I got my data the hard way: by looking at the footage of the Wallabies in possession and recording the position of the ball, the breakdowns and where the back row players were in relation to those, for every phase of possession. That provided some interesting data and I’ll publish a story tomorrow covering that topic.
As I worked through the compiled numbers I realised that I had also captured the data that shows how the Wallabies used their possession during the game. That information is relevant to one of the other topics of comment this week – why were the Wallabies trying to play wide so often?
Pursuing this idea, I combined that data with my statistics published earlier this week to show the source of Wallaby possession and how each possession ended. Then I mapped this data graphically to show the lateral movement of the ball when the Wallabies were in possession.
Given the amount of data, I’ve split the graphics into four sheets — two for each half. The Wallabies started 27 possessions in the first half and 28 in the second. The sheets can be accessed by clicking the icons below but first, here’s an explanation of how you should read them:
- the top horizontal border of the sheets represents the left-hand touch line for the Wallabies;
- the black horizontal lines on the field represent the 15m lines;
- the red vertical lines signal the end of each possession;
- the green boxes indicate where each possession started laterally across the field;
- the red boxes indicate where each possession ended laterally across the field;
- there is no representation of the position up or down the field;
- there’s also no representation of the ground gained in each phase or in each possession (including that data would have nearly required a separate sheet for each possession);
- the white boxes indicate where each breakdown occurred laterally across the field; and
- the letters in the red and green boxes indicate the source of the possession for the Wallabies and how each possession ended.
Here are examples of how to read the data:
- The first possession on the left hand side of the sheet titled ‘Wallabies Use of Possession – 1st Half (A)’ starts with the ball being received from a kick-off. On the first phase of possession the ball was taken into a breakdown straight in front of where it was received. On the second phase of possession the ball was moved a small distance laterally to the right to the next breakdown. On the third phase of possession the ball was again moved a small distance laterally to the right to the next breakdown. On the fourth phase of possession the ball was moved wide laterally to the right to the next breakdown. The possession ended at that breakdown when the ball was turned over by the All Blacks.
- The second possession on the left hand side of the sheet titled ‘Wallabies Use of Possession – 1st Half (A)’ starts with a scrum. It ended with a penalty or free kick to the Wallabies and accordingly there were no ball movement or breakdowns recorded in that possession.
We’ve all heard Robbie Deans say he wants the Wallabies to play what’s in front of them. I take this to mean there is very limited use of team patterns and it is up to all the players — not just the play-makers — to be decision-makers and identify opportunities in front of them. However, this week we’ve heard rumours that there was supposed to be a pattern being used in attack against the All Blacks that had been practiced extensively at their camp on the Gold Coast — but then the Wallabies went out on the field and didn’t play to the pattern.
Was there a plan to use a pattern that was forgotten under the pressure being applied by the All Blacks, or were the rumours false?
Does the data reveal any pattern of the Wallabies sending the ball wide at every opportunity? Does it reveal any pattern at all? I’ll be interested to see what patterns you can see.
To give you some reference points:
- The 1st Half (A) sheet covers the period from kick-off to when Rocky was run into touch on the left side of the field on the All Blacks’ line 17 minutes into the game.
- The 1st Half (B) sheet covers the remainder of the first half and includes the three possessions where the Wallabies strung together some phases and played quite directly without being able to cross the All Blacks’ line.
- The 2nd Half (A) sheet covers the period from kick-off in the second half to when Quade Cooper retrieved the All Blacks’ kick and threw the ball into the in-goal area 25 minutes into the second half.
- The 2nd Half (B) sheet covers the remainder of the second half.
The numbers above the legend represent the time in the game the possessions started.