The Pythagorean win expectation formula has the 2016 Cowboys as a better regular season side than the 2015 side, which went on to win a Grand Final. In 2015 the Cowboys would win 17 games with a point differential of 133 but in 2016 they would win 15 games with a point differential of 229. In 2015 the Cowboys’ 17 wins came by an average margin of 12.8 points while their 7 losses came by an average margin of 12.4 points. In 2016 the Cowboys’ 15 wins came by an average margin of 19.2 while their 9 losses came by an average margin of 6.6 points. The 2015 Cowboys also had a slightly easier schedule than the 2016 version. Finally the 2015 Cowboys went 7-2 in close games while the 2016 edition went 4-5. All in all the 2016 Cowboys lost two more games but were probably a better regular season side than the 2015 version. That probably bodes well for a side that won’t look much different in 2017.
At the start of the 2015 season I wrote about the Cowboys’ terrible record in close games while noting that sooner or later they would have a season where they won more close games than they lost. This was timely because the 2015 Cowboys would go 7-2 in close games. But this performance in close games didn’t hold because the Cowboys were back to their close game losing ways in 2016 going 4-5. As you can see from the heat map teams don’t consistently win or lose close games year to year.
The Cowboys have been quite consistent in the number of errors they have made in the past three years, but despite that they have had some quite fluctuating ranks.
This partly reflects the fact that total NRL errors jumps around a bit year to year, going from 3,296 to 3,728 to 3,467. I’m not sure whether this is just a quirk or issue with the data collection but it is peculiar.
The Cowboys will need to replace James Tamou and the underrated Ben Hannant in the front row. They’ll need to do it all from in house because Ben Hampton is their highest profile new recruit and he doesn’t play prop.
2016 Positional Minute Splits
Despite having Origin props in James Tamou and Matt Scott the Cowboys only averaged 46 minutes from their starting props. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s any change in that and the interchange.
The Cowboys lost key contributors James Tamou, Ben Hannant and Rory Kostjaysn while only bringing in Ben Hampton who may or may not be a contributor. The Cowboys have a good junior programme but their depth will be severely tested.
Average Fantasy Points Allowed Per Position
The Cowboys are always tough fantasy opposition for outside backs with fullbacks, wingers and centres struggling most seasons. The Cowboys up the guts style leads to a lot of defensive work for the forwards.
Key Fantasy Changes
James Tamou and Ben Hannant clear up a couple of spots in the front row. Scott Bolton will probably start with Sam Hoare, Ben Spina and Cory Jensen battling for the bench spot. All would make money.