Queensland Busters Origin 3
Coaching for a WIN
A criticism I have of the current trend in coaching in the NRL is the almost universal philosophy that you can only win one way. Possession and position, wrestle and grind, minimise errors and rarely take a chance.
Post Origin 2 the NSW media focus was all about how NSW couldn’t get the ball, so that’s why they lost! I think we are supposed to expect that it won’t be like that this time so it will all be OK for NSW. Pheww that’s a relief for all you Blues supporters out there!
If that is how NSW is currently preparing for the BIG BATTLE next Wednesday I have grave fears! Playing right into Queensland’s hands. To have some sort of chance the responsible minds in the NSW bunker need to have worked out a battle plan about HOW TO GET THAT POSSESSION not just hope for it.
Here is a plan for emphasizing the many key areas:
1. A massive improvement in the areas of transition from Qld’s last plays to NSW’s first plays of possession sets and the reverse.
a) Catch every long kick by Queensland on the full. Hayne was great at this in Origin 1 and Dugan wasn’t in game 2 so the Blues were almost always making their way back to first plays that ended nearer their own goal line instead of nearer to halfway as Hayne did for them. It follows that NSW kickers were often then kicking from inside their own 40m at the end of those yardage sets
b) On the occasions where they can’t make enough yardage to be completing their possession sets with contested kicks deep in Maroon’s territory, Pearce and Maloney should adopt the very successful tactic the Roosters have employed for their mid-range completions – the very long and very high bomb. No chance of contesting it just lots of “hang time” for chasers to get down there to meet Slater before he can either run far or link with his wingers. This can be a very positive and yet risk free plan.
It allows for a positive patient attitude not requiring risky off loads or pushed passes if not making yardage should Queensland be aggressive and successful in their line speed after any good kicks and chases deep into Blues territory. The Blues will know that getting near half way on play 5 is not a “dud set” because they have a plan that will reverse the arm wrestle pressure. It also removes the pressure on the kickers from trying to “thread the needle” between Qld defenders pressuring them into charge downs and possible kicks that go dead or into touch on the full.
2. Don’t hang your hopes on structured set plays to win this match.
a) Play positively and even aggressively when opportunities arise from loose balls through Maroon errors. This opponent is not only great in attack also a great team of defenders. When the ball hits the ground the Blues should look to string some short passes together and if possible get the ball to Jennings! The chances of that “surprise” set play working is not worth the hours of practice it takes to perfect.
b) Create some of these unstructured situations by licensing Merrin, Watmough, Fifita, Tamou, Bird & Lewis to offload. Alert Farah, Pearce, Maloney and Dugan to these offloads to break up the QLD D line.
c) Put pressure on the Maroons tryline on any sets there by putting on back to back to back plays with real positive questions and multiple options NOT negative hold the ball attitude for attempted repeat sets. The Qlders eat this up and any time spent there without success becomes a negative for the Blues and a positive to Qld for their defensive resilience. Smash this mindset and you are well on your way to the thing you want most – Qld rattled! There is no problem handing the ball over on their line if you have stretched them repeatedly with controlled and powerful questions. Those bombs to wingers need to be just short of the ine also for optimal and multiple good outcomes for NSW.
You don’t have to smash the brick wall down if you can find the window. Set plays are over-rated. Check the videos – most tries come from broken play.
3. Use the Lewis/Pearce combo at Thurston strategically early and as often as possible as the match wears on. Lewis looked low on energy in Game 2, but needs to find a big game to give Thurston a tough time or get Cordner on as his combos with Pearce are high quality – just to be clear Cordner is more than capable of right side as well as left – and MIDDLE for a short stint.
4. Pick fit players. It’s a brave and also good decision to leave Gallen out. Bird is a tough player, but no one can play Origin well if they are struggling with injury. How will he be? Agility is the toughest thing to get back with an injured ankle or knee. Free running isn’t a problem but the starting and stopping and changing direction is the trouble. All of the NSW middles can play big minutes when asked so if Bird is not at his best this will give more time to Watmough, Fifita and Merrin.
5. Have Fifita play big minutes as a goal at least! He has been the best front rower this series
6. Give Merrin the license to offload! Mentioned above but worth its own key point value! This skill in this particular match can be a match changer. His selection to start if brave enough would help to start the match with two ways of attack – muscle and skill in offloading.
7. Let Watmough “explore the D line”. He feels space well when carrying the ball. He still has the speed to get across defenders if there is space out a bit wider. A Maloney, Dugan, Jennings, J Morris or even Pearce well timed straight support run with short ball from “Choc” could really surprise the Maroons itching to belt Blue jerseys carrying one off the ruck. Give him the license to find space and perhaps a pass rather than just trying to find the ground for a quick play the ball to add real variety to NSW attack even (or especially) in own half which is when Hodges (in particular) and Inglis can give themselves a little coffee break instead of moving up when they think the Blues forwards will just punch it up off the ruck.
8. Bomb the wingers – accurate kicking to the corners. McManus vs Boyd in the air! McManus can really climb and will fancy himself against counterpart. And for those who don’t know McManus is equally at home on the right wing having started in that spot as a rookie and prided himself on being able to play both sides. Tate has looked uncomfortable in any contested catching situation requiring him to jump.
And a few DEFENSIVE tips also…
- Be aware of shift play to Inglis in yardage. QLD will move the ball when they need to and Inglis can make NSW pay in the blink of an eye if not concentrating. Pearce needs to have Lewis switched on so that he and Morris and McManus can get up to shut that spread off.
- Stop Hodges dummy half carry -not just the markers but the A/B must be alert. He is very good off his R/f and will offload too. This is the biggest threat to left side defenders Hoffman, Maloney and Jennings who all looked as if Hodges had never done it before in Origin 2. This is the right sided equivalent to the shift to Inglis on NSW right. The other escape route.
- 1st marker split right on smith in yardage to prevent his raking kick to that side from dummy half. A third variation to escape their own end.
- 1-3 will assist to keep Qld away from their goal line. Discipline in D to not concede penalties is also a must. And just a quick reminder – “Don’t throw punches” – it may make you feel good at that point in time but it may kill the hopes and dreams of your team-mates, coaches and millions of fans!
- When 1-4 have not prevented Qld entering the danger area don’t let the kicked ball go through between defenders for repeat sets. QLD will score!
- Don’t stop scrambling – Qld are going to find some good plays. Don’t let them become tries. A try saved could be worth more than a try scored – the positive mental aspect is often doubled.
- Work together in D. Don’t try to solve it yourself. Team D not individual D is the key. Last game NSW middles tried too hard to get pressure on the Qld ball players which is a sound theory – but not after they had quick play the balls (which they had by the dozen!)
- Wear long studs! Its winter.
And finally “DON’T DIE WONDERING GUYS”. Let’s go out there with the attitude of firing controlled but positive bullets at them. Knock them out of their rhythm and keep firing bullets.
This would truly be the greatest ever victory in all of the history that surrounds our sport’s most revered contest. Nothing ordinary about this contest and nothing ordinary will do. Nothing will ever be the same for you all if you meet and conquer this challenge together.
Ashton “Who” Agar met his.