• Q & A - Joel Scrivener

    Knock-On Effect NSW Cup

Recently we sat down with Joel Scrivener who joined out Knock-On Effect NSW Cup coaching team last year. Scrivener’s involvement in the 2023 team played a big part in the boys going all the way to the Grand Final and is keen to use his analysis to push the 2024 squad to achieve more great things.  Have a read below from a very interesting guy >>
What is your work experience background – footy and non-footy? I came to the Bears having worked as a stats caller for the previous NRL data provider, and more recently I provided data analysis for the PNG Hunters in the Hostplus Cup. Away from footy, I’ve worked as a professional firefighter on the North Shore since 2007.
What do you do at the Bears? I became Head of Analysis in 2023, and in 2024 I’ve also taken on the role of the NSW Cup Assistant Coach. As Head of Analysis, I’m responsible for the development and implementation of analytics across all aspects of the football program. This can take the form of a wide range of different things: assisting Pat with recruitment and retention decisions; informing team selection and how to optimally use players; utilising data to break down opposition sides and develop game plans – the list is endless! I’ve been really lucky to be given a lot of freedom to think of different ways we can implement analytics, thanks to Jason Taylor and Pat Weisner really leaning in and embracing a more analytics-driven approach to footy.
You love stats, where did this passion come from? I’ve always been pretty handy with numbers (my undergrad was actually in Mathematics, before I quit to become a fireman!), but it wasn’t until I started playing American football that I got really into it. The Yanks are so into their analytics – being exposed to their more sophisticated stats and different ways of thinking around sports made me really crave the same level of analysis for rugby league. This drove me to head back to uni and complete my Graduate Certificate in Sports Analytics, where I developed the skills required to bring that analytics approach to rugby league. The American influence helps me think differently and find interesting questions to ask, and then I use data science coding to develop unique, tailor-made stats and solve them. The great thing about sports is you never run out of questions to ask!
How is analytics changing the game? The most obvious example that everyone would notice is the recent proliferation of short drop-outs across the NRL. These were pretty much unheard of 10 years ago, but as more teams invest in their analytics departments and lean on data to inform their decision-making, it’s inevitable that more and more teams will implement these (the numbers are pretty clear). That’s the example that everyone would see, but if you know where to look, it’s actually pretty easy to spot the more analytics-driven sides, and within those sides, the different stats and attributes that they value.
How will your role impact the Bears in the 2024 season? On the analytics side I’ll be doing all the same things, but as NSW Cup Assistant Coach I’ll have a lot more opportunities to work directly with the players and have an impact at that level. Last year, I was responsible for our attacking kicking game, so I got to work closely with our halves; but outside of Jesse and Stev, I wasn’t doing a lot with other players. Already in pre-season this year, I’ve been able to sit down with individuals and discuss their stats, their tape, how they fit into the broader squad and where they need to improve going into the new season. I’d like to think that having a better understanding of our players and how to use them had a positive impact on the side in 2023 – the hope is that giving the players a better understanding of themselves will take that to the next level in 2024.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time/hobbies? In-season, there’s always more footy to watch and more stats to trawl through, so I don’t really have a lot of free time to be honest! But I’m still right into the US sports – I’ve usually got the baseball on the telly while I’m working during the season, and in the off-season, I love the NFL and the tennis.

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