BATTLE OF THE HALVES IN NRL PRELIMINARY FINALS
CRONULLA VS NORTH QUEENSLAND
The peerless skills of Johnathan Thurston give North Queensland a distinct advantage over Cronulla in Friday night's preliminary final at Allianz Stadium.
With 28 try-assists to his name to go with Michael Morgan's 16, the Cowboys' halves have set up almost double the amount of tries of their Cronulla counterparts. They have also put an extra 17 players into holes in 2016 and on average, kick an extra 115 metres per game.
In comparison, James Maloney and Chad Townsend have been a safer pairing for a Sharks team that gets their work done in the forwards. They have made 22 less errors than the Cowboys' playmakers, and are also slightly sounder defensively. Townsend has outshone Maloney in assists, setting up 17 linebreaks and 14 tries.
Maloney - 9 try assists, 10 linebreak assists, 7 linebreaks.
Townsend - 14 try assists, 17 linebreak assists, 6 tries.
Morgan - 16 try assists, 17 linebreak assists, 11 linebreaks.
Thurston - 28 try assists, 27 linebreak assists, 291 kicking metres per game.
CRONULLA v NORTH QUEENSLAND KEY HALVES STATS
Games: CRO 48 - NQ 44
Try assists: CRO 23 - NQ 44
Linebreak assists: CRO 27 - NQ 44
Kicking metres: CRO 262 per game - NQ 377 per game
Tries: CRO 11 - NQ 11
Linebreaks: CRO 14 - NQ17
Errors: CRO 46 - NQ 68
Tackle completions: CRO 86% - NQ 84%
MELBOURNE VS CANBERRA
Widely regarded as the most clinical number seven in the game, Cooper Cronk gives Melbourne the edge in Saturday's preliminary final . On the cusp of this 300th NRL game, Cronk tops the league with 29 try assists this year, nearly double the combined total (17) of Canberra halves Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer. Cronk's kicking game is also difficult to shut down. He averages 284 metres per game off the boot.
Although they've set up fewer tries, Canberra's halves are more lethal with the ball in hand. Five-eighth Austin has broken the line 12 times in 18 games, giving the Raiders an edge over Melbourne in total linebreaks made. However, Austin and Sezer will need to reduce their error rate. They've made 52 mistakes in 2016 compared to Cronk and Blake Green's combined total of 40.
Cooper Cronk - 29 try assists, 23 linebreak assists, kicks 284m per game.
Blake Green - 13 try assists, 15 line break assists, 92.56 per cent tackle efficiency.
Blake Austin - 4 try assists, 12 line breaks, 8 tries.
Aidan Sezer - 13 try assists, kicks 206m per game, 28 errors.
MELBOURNE v CANBERRA KEY STATS
Games: MEL 46 - CAN 41
Try assists: MEL 42 - CAN 17
Linebreak assists: MEL 38 - CAN 10
Kicking metres: MEL 393 per game - CAN 315 per game
Tries: MEL 13 - CAN 13
Linebreaks: MEL 14 - CAN 17
Errors: MEL 40 - CAN 52
Tackle completions: MEL 92% - CAN 88%
* Statistics courtesy of Fox Sports Stats