The prodigal son has returned… but not to Parramatta. No, Parramatta’s favourite son, Jarryd Hayne, has traded in the blue and gold of the Eels for the slightly lighter shade of blue and gold of the Titans. In doing so, he’s not only offended everyone within a 10 kilometre radius of Westmead, but also dramatically changed the dynamics of the race to the Telstra Premiership finals. To add a player of Hayne’s quality to a potential Top 8 team so late in the contest, is to not only throw a cat amongst the pigeons, but to trap the pigeons in a cardboard box and arm the cat with a blowtorch.
How good are the Titans already?
Headed into Round 22, the Gold Coast Titans found themselves sitting in 7th place on 23 points. They would have already been on a high following their exciting draw with league leaders Cronulla, and were well placed (although no certainty) to make the finals with 5 rounds to play. Looking at their overall VOA ratings (you can learn what VOA ratings are all about here), we see a team middle-of-the-road, if not a bit below average:
|Offense Rating||Ranking||Defense Rating||Ranking|
What we can see is that the Titans are right around average with the ball in hand, and noticeably below average in defense. It’s worth noting however, that since Round 14 the Titans’ have improved their defense considerably. So much so in fact, that their overall defense VOA would place them among the the best defenses in the league on recent form:
Titans Overall Defense VOA (Round 14-21): -24.95% (3rd)
So, assuming that the Titans are able to maintain this recent standard of defense, the only thing holding them back from being genuine contenders is their mediocre offense. Which is where Jarryd Hayne comes in.
How much is that Jarryd Hayne in the window?
By this point, it’s been well reported how much one Jarryd Hayne is worth in monetary terms (about $1.2 million Australian dollars per season, or $911,000 US), but what we’re interested in is what he’s worth on the field. To try and place a value on that, we’ll look at what he contributed offensively on a per game basis during his last season in the NRL (stats via nrl.com):
Of course, in order to find the added value of Jarryd Hayne, we also need to know the per game contributions of whoever he is replacing. To compare apples to apples, we’ll look at the contributions of whoever was playing fullback for the Titans (David Mead, William Zillman and Josh Hoffman) across the season:
Obviously, Hayne at his best was much better than any of the rotating fullbacks that the Titans have trotted out across the course of the season (this is to be expected, Hayne was widely accepted as being among the best players in the game when he left). However, in order to find the value Hayne could add to the Titans, we need to deduct the numbers from their various fullbacks from Hayne’s numbers (since he necessarily would be taking their place, you can’t count the same numbers twice). So, Hayne’s (best case) Value Added to the Titans’ offense looks like this:
These are gaudy numbers. How gaudy? Let’s compare the Titans actual VOA with their hypothetical Hayne VOA side-by-side (for these purposes, we’ve valued line breaks and line breaks assists equally – 0.5 line breaks each. We don’t necessarily believe this is the true breakdown in contribution to a line break, but it’s the simplest solution and beyond the scope of this article to find the actual breakdown):
|Without Hayne||With Hayne|
|VOA Rating||Ranking||VOA Rating||Ranking|
As you can see the Titans offense would be better. Much better. So much better in fact, that their overall offense VOA would leap into the positive:
Titans hypothetical Offense VOA with Hayne: 17.74% (4th)
So should the pigeons be worried?
Clearly, there are an enormous amount of unknowns involved in Hayne’s addition to the Titans. How well will he fit with the Titans’ style of play? How is his match fitness without having played in the NRL for 2 years? What position will he even play? This exercise was not intended to answer those questions, but rather to look at the hypothetical best case scenario. Are the Titans suddenly premiership smokies? We don’t think so. They’re most likely to improve, and fit somewhere around the Canterbury/Canberra tier of teams. If however, Hayne does play fullback, and does find fitness, and does fit the scheme, and does recapture his 2014 form, the Titans are without doubt a far better team than they were before. How much better? We’ll find out in October.