Defence Wins Premierships

There is an old adage often credited to college football legend Bear Bryant that says offense sells tickets but defence wins games. It is certainly a truism in modern Rugby League that attack brings in the fans but defence is what wins premierships.

There is no more important basic statistic than points conceded when analysing the premiership credentials of a team. Clubs almost certainly will be eliminated from contention before Grand Final day if their defence does not rate among the elite.

Let’s look at the defensive rankings of all Grand Finalists dating back to 2006:


2006Brisbane (1)Melbourne (2)
2007Melbourne (1)Manly (2)
2008Manly (2)Melbourne (1)
2009Melbourne (2)Parramatta (6)
2010St George Illawarra (1)Sydney Roosters (8)
2011Manly (2)New Zealand (5)
2012Melbourne (1)Canterbury (2)
2013Sydney Roosters (1)Manly (2)
2014South Sydney (1)Canterbury (6)
2015North Queensland (5)Brisbane (3)
2016Cronulla (3)Melbourne (1)

Only one winner of the last 11 premierships has had a defence ranked outside of the top three while.

The No.1 defensive side in the premiership has played in eight of the last 11 Grand Finals.

In the last 11 deciders, of the 22 Grand Finalists, just five have ranked outside the top three in defence.

Defence more easily defines a team. It is representative of attitude, of commitment, of structure. Sometimes the ball just won’t stick in attack. Good defensive teams rarely have lapses. A good defence is just more reliable than a good attack.

So when looking for legitimate title contenders look to defence. No stat paints a clearer picture.


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