Stats show interesting comparisons

RUGBY LEAGUE: When stats guru David Middleton revealed on the eve of Friday’s trans-Tasman Test that a Kangaroos victory would equal the winning streak by an Australian rugby league team, the natural reaction was to compare the eras.


Which was the better group of players?


Was the opposition 20 years ago stronger than now?


Which state dominated the national team back then?


Not that any of those facts really matter, but chasing down the possible answers to the queries was an interesting exercise.


And the result tossed up as many conundrums as it did solutions.


The two eras to compare are from 1979 to1983, and from 2011 to now.


Friday night’s win by the Kangaroos equalled the 16-Test winning streak by their counterparts two decades earlier.


In their 16 Test wins, the 79-83 Kangaroos amassed 436 points to 90. Their wins came against Great Britain (6), New Zealand (5), France (4) and Papua New Guinea (1).


Conversely, the current Kangaroos have racked up 582 points to 146 against England (3), New Zealand (8), Fiji (2), Ireland (1), USA (1) and Wales (1). Runaway wins of 64-nil, 62-nil, 50-nil and 56-14 against Fiji, USA, Ireland and Wales respectively could reasonably be considered easier opposition than the 79-83 ‘Roos faced in their era.


The Test match the 79-83 team last lost before its winning streak was against France, in Toulouse at the end of the 1978 Kangaroo Tour and the winning run came to an end against the Graham Lowe-coached Kiwis at Lang Park in 1983. For the current Kangaroos, their last loss was also to New Zealand, in the World Cup final of 2010, also in Brisbane.


During their reign the 79-83 Roos had two coaches – Frank Stanton and Arthur Beetson.


The current crop has had just one, Tim Sheens.


The number of players used during the respective 16-Test campaigns raises an interesting stat. In an era when 17 players are selected, Tim Sheens has used a total of 44.


The 79-83 teams, which had just 15 at their disposal for each Test, used 41 players.


But by far the most intriguing revelation is the balance in the two eras between Queensland and NSW representation.


In the early era, 28 of the 41 players were New South Welshman, although of the 13 Queenslanders only five – Wally Lewis, Mal Meninga, Wally Fullerton-Smith, Rohan Hancock and Mark Murray – were selected while playing in their home state.


Of those 44 who have played in the current winning sequence, the ledger is split 22-all between the states.


Interestingly, Australia’s next Test is against New Zealand in Brisbane at season’s end, to open the Four Nations tournament.


Could the Kiwis, once again, be the party poopers?

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