Road Warriors Storm defy science and travel fatigue

The Melbourne Storm are more likely to win away from home than any of their opponents, according to a new study.

They’ve defied player poaching, referees, heavy representative commitments and even the salary cap to achieve NRL premiership success.

Now the Melbourne Storm can say they’ve flouted science, according to Australian Catholic University (ACU) research which found over the past decade the premiers were more likely to win on the road than any of their rivals.

The study of NRL matches played from 2007 to 2019, published in the international journal Science and Medicine in Football, showed a team’s probability of winning was reduced by 2.7 per cent for every 1000km travelled.

That probability was even more grim for the North Queensland Cowboys and the Warriors who regularly travel more than 2000km which results in a 5.4 per cent dip in the likelihood of away success.

Road performance is critical, particularly when one victory determined finals qualification in 12 of the 13 seasons studied.

Bucking that pattern was the Storm, for whom there was a 0.5 per cent increase in the likelihood of winning a match per 1000km travelled.

“It just shows ability can offset travel fatigue,” said Dr Jonathan Weakley from ACU’s School of Behavioural and Health Sciences.

Their away success rate further emphasised the greatness of coach Craig Bellamy, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater who contributed to four grand final wins from seven appearances over the 13 seasons featured in the study.

The joint project from ACU, Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Bath and University of Technology Sydney also found:

  • 15 per cent of the 2352 matches studied were decided by two points or less
  • Two premiership points (one win) separated the eighth and ninth-placed teams in 12 of the 13 seasons
  • Total travel increased over the 13-season period and,
  • Players perceived home crowds, transport, the presence of friends and family, nutrition and sleeping arrangements influenced their performance

The findings have scheduling implications for administrators, and for club sport science staff who have helped reduce the effect of travel on performance over time.

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