For Petone Rugby Club, it’s been a long time since they had a season this good – making the final of Wellington’s Premier division for the first time in 17 years. We spoke to Head Coach Ryan Piper about how the introduction of new technology has been a key part of his club’s resurgence.

Founded in 1885, Petone RFC is one of the oldest clubs in Wellington. Their production of 30 All Blacks is proof of their historical ability to develop players. As mentioned, their Premier team made the final for the first time in nearly two decades, but the Colts (Under-21) and Division 1 (Reserve Grade) teams went one better and won their respective competitions.

Petone has what they call a ‘Club DNA’, which standardizes tactics and performance goals across all of their teams. A culture of performance analysis allows this DNA to be worked in effectively throughout each team to help develop new players and transition them to the higher grades.

“Colts players are introduced to this system from a young age to prepare them for adult-grade rugby, so the culture of analysis is massively important to us,” explained Head Coach Ryan Piper.

“We expose the Colts to as much or if not everything that the premier group does, which includes statistical analysis, preview and review. The transition from school straight to premier rugby is quite a big ask, so we want to keep the level as high as possible at the Colts stage of development to shorten the learning gap.”

One club, one DNA: Petone RFC pride themselves on a connected club model throughout the grades.

The Premier team is the highest level of club rugby and at this top end there is a growing focus on the analytical side of the game.

“I remember when I first started working with the Premier group seven years ago and I was using an A4 piece of paper to record stats,” said Piper. “Now by introducing Hudl Sportscode, we can log all of our game events quickly post-match and then with one click we can transfer all of our information to the platform where players can find their niche area of where we want them to extract from the review.

This is getting a lot more player buy-in as they now don’t have to scrub through 80 minutes of footage. We have clips cut together using Sportscode and it’s easy and simple for the players to get there with a couple of clicks. They’re not professional players, they work, they have families, so we want to make the analysis side of things as easy as possible.”

It’s not just easy for the players to be process-orientated in a timely manner using Hudl Sportscode. The Petone coaching team can get their analysis done quickly in the post-match review stage and produce an output of metrics and vision that works directly into team strategy.

“Sportscode allows me to code the full game, it generates clips and stats and I code using my own code window which I’ve been using for a couple of years now,” said Piper. “Within 50 minutes I can code the whole game, fully coded, fully clicked.

Then we basically pull it back to our DNA and extract parts from that, which goes into the output window. I have a team output window which breaks into attack and defence. So around the attack things, it's strike percentage which I do off first phase, meaning if we've broken the gain line, that's a tick.

We then look at the percentage of those strikes and break that down into our zones. Did we strike in the right zone, what was our outcome percentage of that?

We've made it a goal to hit 85% or above in terms of strikes, and typically reviewing over the last few seasons, If we've been above 85%, we've won the game. That's something that we have learned we can hone in on using analysis and create conversations around.”

Custom code window used to code instances in Hudl Sportscode. Usage of this technology is now becoming more and more useful at the top end of Premier Club Rugby.

These conversations, along with the higher level of both speed and detail in analysis, allows the  Petone coaching team to have a deeper level of engagement with their players.

"My philosophy around coaching is the micro detail, but what does that actually mean?, said Piper. “When we have those face-to-face conversations with our players, it’s ok to outline detail, but how do we deliver it? I find through Sportscode and Hudl that we have the micro details right there at our fingertips.

It's another avenue of learning and being able to take clips and slow it right down with just the arrow keys, we can look at the micro detail. For instance, not just saying you missed three tackles out of eight, but what happened in those three tackles you missed. This helps us shape sessions for the individual players and conversations become more technical. Visual learning is so powerful in terms of learning and understanding of what we're trying to achieve.”

Output report generated from Hudl Sportscode statistics - strike execution being one of the key performance indicators for the Petone team.

Increasing engagement with players is always crucial to generating understanding of match-winning strategies, but the engagement between Head Coach and Assistant Coach is paramount to executing those strategies. Again, analysis plays a big part in this process.

“Once the game is fully coded and we've got the output windows and stats sheet all completed, that’s emailed straight to the management group and the assistant coaches,” said Piper. “From there they decide what they choose to focus in on as the stats from Sportscode capture everything.

They then can simply click to run the clips and it plays all of them back-to-back. They can input their notes and do drawings on the footage to provide visual cues.

With club rugby, you don't have a lot of time as training starts at 6pm and the players need to be out there by 8pm maximum, so to have all of the clips and presentations ready to go means it shortens down our review time and we can have all of the conversations and learnings we need within that short time.

"When we have those face-to-face conversations with our players, it’s ok to outline detail, but how do we deliver it? I find through Sportscode and Hudl that we have the micro details right there at our fingertips". Ryan Piper - Head Coach, Petone Rugby Club.

It also allows us to keep us accountable as coaches and challenge each other. For example, with our set pieces, we can see that we maybe lost too many lineouts and can reference the footage and discuss our own thoughts and concerns.

If we have disagreed on anything, it doesn't show in our team presentation because we've already had that conversation through visuals and phone calls beforehand. Being united in front of the players creates that bigger buy-in and it eliminates any back door talking, allowing the team culture to keep moving forward. Analysis is a huge part of all that.”

Reflecting on their first season using Hudl Sportscode, the Petone coaching staff can reflect on the value it will provide them moving forward to hopefully take one step further to win the Premier title in Wellington.

The new analysis technology we have taken onboard has been huge and I think it needs to be part of any coaches' toolbox,” said Piper. I think if you are not prepared to be involved in analysis, then you're going to be left behind.

Moving forward, the thing we want to add is not just limiting analysis to games. This season we want to get the capability to film trainings and analyze our training sessions in Sportscode as well.

If you keep wanting to develop and learn, you need to have analysis. Analysis keeps you accountable, keeps players accountable and you'll see the growth almost overnight within your team.”

For more information, learn about our professional analysis solutions for Rugby Union and check out our case studies at all levels of the game, including The SpringboksNorth Harbour Rugby and Suntory Sungoliath