The expected value of possession in professional rugby league match-play

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Sports Sciences, 2016, 34 (7), pp. 645 - 650
Issue Date:
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© 2015 Taylor & Francis. This study estimated the expected point value for starting possessions in different field locations during rugby league match-play and calculated the mean expected points for each subsequent play during the possession. It also examined the origin of tries scored according to the method of gaining possession. Play-by-play data were taken from all 768 regular-season National Rugby League (NRL) matches during 2010–2013. A probabilistic model estimated the expected point outcome based on the net difference in points scored by a team in possession in a given situation. An iterative method was used to approximate the value of each situation based on actual scoring outcomes. Possessions commencing close to the opposition’s goal-line had the highest expected point equity, which decreased as the location of the possession moved towards the team’s own goal-line. Possessions following an opposition error, penalty or goal-line dropout had the highest likelihood of a try being scored on the set subsequent to their occurrence. In contrast, possessions that follow an opposition completed set or a restart were least likely to result in a try. The expected point values framework from our model has applications for informing playing strategy and assessing individual and team performance in professional rugby league.
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