Shoulder to shoulder with Titan’s coach and League icon Karyn Murphy (“Murph”), Dr Newans has acquired sought-after statistical skills that advance understanding of player potential and optimise on-field performance.
“The biggest sources of data for us involve tracking action and time points on the field which we then collate across multiple games and multiple seasons to understand our players at their best,” Dr Newans said.
Using GPS trackers in specially manufactured jerseys, individualised data will inform player strengths, styles, load capacity, team positioning and decisions around injury management as well as contribute to the team’s tactical blueprint.
“The stats and data we can gather allows us to build individual player profiles and then see where they best fit amongst our squad in the overarching strategy,” Dr Newans said.
Whilst this has informed the teams preseason development, come game night, Newans has sat eagle-eyed in the coach’s box beside “Murph” providing live data to help with on demand decision making.
“We’ll go in with a game plan, but then there’s quite a lot of discussion during the match and based on how we’re playing, as well as how the opposition performs, we’ll send a message out over the headsets or with a runner to change tactic.”
“It’s a fast-paced, fun environment to be in.”
Titans NRLW coach Karyn Murphy said the team really values the partnership with Griffith University, with Dr Newans as well as two Griffith nutrition intern’s board.
“To have someone like Tim, who provides all that valuable data support for us is massive.”
Star NRLW player Karina Brown said: “It’s been great to have access to really insightful information, to build awareness around where the ball might go, what the opposition might do, or awareness about our own play.”
Newans knew at the age of nine that he wanted to be a sports statistician.
“I would sit there and watch cricket and record scoreboards myself – I loved it, but at the time my parents would say there weren’t many jobs in it,” he said.
“Twenty years later, data has progressed, and most sporting organisations are employing people that have coding, maths or stats abilities.”
Throughout the nine-and-a-half-year journey to complete his PhD, Dr Newans realised there was a significant need for more advanced statistical understanding in the sports science space.
“The foundation for my thesis was, what’s the type of data we see in sports science?” he said.
“It involved looking at methods that are getting used in other fields that could better service the community and support researchers.”
An impressive stint as a freelance sports scientist in 2018 with the Jillaroos led to Newans receiving funding from the team to continue his PhD research.
“I’ve been there since the inaugural season, helping the NRL through all their decision-making processes from squad sizes, how many teams, how many interchanges, what the ideal lengths of the matches might be and how scheduling should look for injury prevention and management,” he said.
Dr Newans’ work as a consultant for the Jillaroos over the last five years culminated in an offer to join them as team analyst at the 2022 World Cup.
“I’ve definitely grown an affinity for the women’s game, having been alongside the teams, seeing the passion of the people within the organisations and how much drive there is to leverage the women’s game,” he said.
“Many of the women’s players are finishing training at 8.30pm at night and must be up at 3am the next morning to be at work by 4, depending on what their day-to-day jobs are.
“From a strength and conditioning point of view we have to be very cognisant of this, knowing when the players turn up to training they’ve already done a full day’s work, often in a very physical capacity, or study.
“In the men’s game, players are considered fully professional athletes and that’s their full-time job.
“To see the girls turning up, still in the semi-professional capacity, because they love the game more than anything… It’s incredible to see that level of dedication.”
Dr Newans is hopeful that the progression and support behind women’s sport, particularly demonstrated in the NRL which in 2023 includes 10 teams, will see more women in full-time athlete roles.
Under the mentorship of Associate Professor Clare Minahan and Dr Phil Bellinger, Newans’ is contributing to a 25 year long legacy of female athlete research at Griffith.
“This kind of work with female athletes has been in the works a long time, and Griffith has a really robust history of research which I’m proud to be part of and continue developing,” he said.