Out of the frying pan….

Jacob Liddle is free! He’s done what Luke Brooks could only dream of and escaped the doldrums of the cellar dwelling Tigers to the promise land of *checks notes* the Dragons?!? Oh man. Alright. The man loves to tackle I guess.

Priced $571’000 with a break even of 39, Liddle offers an interesting point of value depending on his role within this Dragons side as he looks to fill the void left by the retiring tackle bot, Andrew McCullough. Liddle comes in at somewhat of a discount having played only 52 minutes on average, including two games off the bench in relief. McCullough on the other hand played 75 minutes on average in 2021 and 63 minutes in 2022. With a likely increase in minutes for Liddle on offer, it would appear at first glance that there will be some value for him at Kogarah, but what can we realistically expect?

WIth no other specialist hooker currently signed to their top 30 squad, it would seem fairly likely that this job is Liddle’s to lose and any stint in relief for Liddle will come from a utility of some sort on the bench. From that as well as the role we’ve seen Anthony Griffin deploy McCullough in for the past two seasons, I think we can assume Liddle’s range of expected average minutes is somewhere between the low 60s and high 70s. As for Liddle’s PPM, it has been surprisingly very good for the majority of his career, sitting at the exact same as that of Reece Robson last year and Brandon Smith’s career hooker PPM outside of 2021’s try scoring spree. From 2017 to 2019, in his 30+ minute appearances, Liddle posted a PPM of 0.70. WIth the expanded set restarts beginning in 2020, since then Liddle’s PPM has jumped slightly to 0.73  in 30 appearances with his defensive output increasing slightly as well as his attacking output jumping slightly in front of his negative stats. Perhaps his 2021 performances are inflating this number like many other players I hear you say. Well you’d be wrong. In his 8 starts at hooker last year Liddle averaged 43.8 in 59 minutes at a PPM of 0.73. Adding in his five NSW Cup appearances at hooker last year to this sample, Liddle averaged 55.5 in 74 minutes with a PPM of 0.74 (note: his attacking stats increased quite a bit but was offset by a reduction in defensive workload).

So with a seemingly reliable expected range of minutes and PPM, let’s put the two together and find out what we can expect from Liddle:

Minutes Projection at 0.73 PPMPoints Average
61-6444.5 to 46.7 (not a buy)
65-7047.5 to 51.1 (buy)
71-7551.8 to 54.8 (potential keeper)

This points to a very clear average minutes requirement for Liddle. It is 65+ or bust. Of course the Dragons do have the round 1 bye but as we’ve covered in our game theory article, having a round 1 bye isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it’s the only time you’re guaranteed to have no other red dots. Past round 1 the Dragons have a pretty favourable early schedule as well with only 3 games against last year’s top 6 sides until State of Origin begins and no more byes until round 16. So at 14k less than Brandon Smith, a similar projection, similar minutes and a much more favourable early schedule, is there much difference between the two outside of brand name? Well, yes. Brand name can’t be understated in this scenario. The difference is Smith is a big name on a big contract and a guaranteed role. Liddle has none of that. If Anthony Griffin decides on a whim that Moses Mbye needs to be at hooker for 30 minutes then Liddle is back in the exact same position he was in at the Tigers. For now we’d advise caution with Liddle in the hopes we get more information out of Dragons camp as the pre-season progresses. However, for the risk takers and POD chasers Jacob Liddle could be the big balls play you’re looking for.



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