NRL DataJam: Measuring momentum one step closer to reality

Could the ability to measure momentum become more accurate sooner rather than later?

The NRL held its second NRL Datajam in Pyrmont last week with guest judges Mal Meninga, Darren Lockyer and Karyn Murphy on the panel to dissect 10 presentations from major world-leading companies.

Global brands including Facebook and Google took part in the day with the NRL handing over more than 7000 data sets from the last 18 months of rugby league.

The idea is for companies to use their own metrics to create possible new ways for coaches and fans to use data on individual players and teams.

Eventual winners on the day, Quantium, were able to develop a system that measured momentum in games by creating a bar for each side on the paddock during a clash – one side's bar rising for every correct piece of play in a set, while the opposition's derailed until they were able to swing momentum back in their favour.

The measurement could then be broken down for coaches and fans to explore which time periods a side excelled and struggled to hold momentum.

"We loved it, we think it had great application for not only coaches but fan engagement and across the media," Meninga said.

Quantium referred to Penrith's comeback victories in 2018 as an example of identifying where their momentum began towards the latter stages of games.

Group leader Tyson McCarthy told NRL.com it would be an accurate measurement covering everything from tries, runs, errors, missed tackles and penalties.

"We just found a mathematical approach and turned it into an index that coaches and fans can talk through whilst having faith of being an accurate measurement," McCarthy said.

"You hear commentators often say one side has all the momentum so we wanted to find a way to break that down and include all the statistical data given to us.

"Our team last year built a solid base around points scored so we wanted to continue that study and find something new."

Lockyer, who will continue his commentary commitments with Channel 9 next season, believed it was a possibility for the network to use as part of their coverage into the future.

"A tool like this could back the momentum call up," Lockyer told NRL.com.

"We're always voicing which team is on top and a live graphic showing the bar rise and fall can give fans an educational lesson."

The more information you can give a fan, whether it be at the game or at home, can only be a good thing.

Darren Lockyer

Other presentations included a focus around centres and their workloads in games, while GPS data tracking was made available to companies for the first time with birds-eye views of players and yardage accumulated on the paddock a popular theme.

Clubs are expected to be offered the data systems and metrics for their own use.

"If I were a coach I would be gaining as much data as I can about the strengths of my players and their weaknesses," Lockyer said.

"Some coaches are into data a lot more than others. There are some things that will never be able to be measured like individual brilliance, but the more information you can give a fan, whether it be at the game or at home, can only be a good thing."