With Easter just around the corner, it signals a tough period for Super League sides. Whereas the NRL carry on about their business as usual, Super League teams are faced with two games in the space of a few days, generally playing on both Good Friday and Easter Monday.
The RFL have also planned a second ‘Easter’ style weekend at the end of May, with the majority of coaches voicing their concern at what too many games in such a short period could do to their players in what is an extremely physically demanding sport.
Some teams are deemed to have a slight advantage with their first set of games brought forward, with Huddersfield vs Catalans being played tonight (12th April) and Widnes facing Warrington tomorrow (13th April), ensuring that those teams will have extra rest over their opponents when it comes to their Easter Monday fixture. This has left us querying whether there is any correlation between teams winning games by having extra rest than their opponents.
We’ve looked back over the last two full seasons in both the Super League and the NRL, as well as observing the current season (although it is important to note that this is a much smaller sample size with Super League eight rounds in and the NRL only six rounds old at this stage). For the purpose of this investigation, we have calculated our findings by looking at when teams played league games in the previous week and compared the number of days between their games. For example, if one team played on the Friday and their next opponents played the following day on the Saturday, that would count as a one-day advantage. Here is what TSZ has found:
Three Or Four-Day Advantage
Five-Day + Advantage
There are some mitigating factors to consider with these results. In Super League, the inclusion of Challenge Cup games could have made a difference but a lot of teams opt to rest players in these games in the earlier rounds, especially if up against lower league opposition. It is also worth considering that the teams that compete in the World Club Series have an additional game to play early on in the season. In the NRL, games continue whilst State of Origin is played and this causes upheaval amongst those clubs who have players taking part in Origin. It’s also worth considering the bye weeks in the NRL, which give teams a week off twice a season.
From the numbers we’ve gathered, it looks as though a one-day advantage doesn’t make a great deal of difference to the outcome of results, with the figures inconsistent and all relatively close in terms of percentage. With a two-day gap, it makes a big difference in Super League but seems to have the opposite effect in the NRL.
Three days or greater doesn’t provide us with great sample sizes, especially compared to an advantage of one or two days. However, it does appear that big gaps like that do play into the hands of those sides who have the extra rest days, with only a couple of occurrences bucking the trend.
All three Super League seasons show that teams with any sort of advantage in terms of rest come out on top. In the NRL, though, it seems to be trending the other way. It was very close in 2015 but in 2016 and the current season, teams with less rest than their opponents are coming out on top. It could be that NRL teams lose momentum by having big gaps between games and prefer to get out onto the field rather than having longer periods between games. In Super League, it looks as though extra days between games helps players to recover and doesn’t affect their momentum.