Who is the best fullback in the league by the numbers

Super League is blessed with some amazing fullbacks at the moment many of which can take the game by the scruff of the neck or conjure up a play worth the admission money alone.

The reigning Man of Steel is a fullback as is the front runner for the award so far this season. Meanwhile the assist chart is also topped by a fullback as is metres made. But which fullback is the best in the competition at this moment in time? Today we’re comparing Jai Field, Jake Connor, Sam Tomkins, Tui Lolohea and Jack Welsby statistically to answer that question. The likes of Lachlan Coote and Niall Evalds aren’t included owing to their injury hit starts to the season.

So, without any further ado, here’s how each fullback ranks against one another statistically:

Tries:
Jai Field: 9
Jake Connor: 3
Sam Tomkins: 0
Tui Lolohea: 1
Jack Welsby: 3

Try Assist:
Jai Field: 3
Jake Connor: 12
Sam Tomkins: 3
Tui Lolohea: 10
Jack Welsby: 11

Combined Tries and Assists:
Jai Field: 12
Jake Connor: 15
Sam Tomkins: 3
Tui Lolohea: 11
Jack Welsby: 14

Average Gain:
Jai Field: 9.88 metres
Jake Connor: 4.8 metres
Sam Tomkins: 5.16 metres
Tui Lolohea: 6.76 metres
Jack Welsby: 5.28 metres

Clean Breaks:
Jai Field: 12
Jake Connor: 5
Sam Tomkins: 0
Tui Lolohea: 1
Jack Welsby: 2

Metres:
Jai Field: 1126
Jake Connor: 413
Sam Tomkins: 315
Tui Lolohea: 737
Jack Welsby: 491

Break Down:

Right off the bat two statistics jump out and that is Jai Field’s 1126 metres made and is his 12 line breaks. These dwarf the rest of the four with Tui Lolohea coming the closest in term of metres with 737 and Jake Connor the closest for line breaks with 5 which is less than half Field’s total.

Field is the competition leader for both these stats and it perhaps sheds some light on how he plays the game differently to other fullbacks. Whilst many of his contemporaries in the role look to find a pass and create space for others, Field is often put into space and uses his speed to devastate teams something he and Bevan French are both capable of in that role.

This is why he’s up there where the top try scorer rankings are concerned. His tally of nine is just one shy off top spot.

Curiously, he only has three assists to his name when you might expect more from the dynamic fullback. His total is much less than Jake Connor’s 12 who leads the way in the competition as well as Tui Lolohea’s total of 10 and reigning Young Player of the Year Jack Welsby’s tally of 11.

Turning to another player with just three assists, Sam Tomkins stats are well off the high standards that he set last year as he won the Man of Steel. He was involved in over 30 tries for Catalans in 2021 but this year has registered only 3 try involvements and is yet to score himself.

Nonetheless, Catalans are still winning games perhaps suggesting that the Dragons have had to be less expansive at times this season. Stats perhaps aren’t everything when you have a player like Sam Tomkins in your team; his leadership and ability to be patient with the ball may also be central to success. It is surprising to see a player who had 20 assists last season down to just three in the opening seven rounds however.

When we look at combined tries and assists Jake Connor stands out as the most effective player with a  huge total of 15 which is closely followed by Welsby’s 14. If we determine the role of fullback as the role to create and score tries then this shows that right now Connor is the competition’s best fullback despite persistent England snubs. It also shows that Welsby is on course to fulfil his ambition of emulating childhood hero Sam Tomkins and be the best fullback in the league. If he does accomplish this it may be a long time until we see a side other than Saints win the Grand Final.

Ultimately, these stats help to show how the role is played in modern rugby league and what any young fullback needs to do to be successful. The limited metres made by these five – Jake Connor has run for just 413 and Sam Tomkins just 315 – suggests that most teams are relying on wingers for kick returns with their fullbacks saved for their attacking influence up the other end of the field.

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