Every Team Must Have 2 of THEM

25/03/2014

Every Team Must Have 2 of THEM

IT’S A RULE – EVERY TEAM MUST HAVE 2 OF THEM

What a try that was by Brett Morris! If you missed it you really should catch it up as it truly is the new bench mark for NRL wingers in this era. Wests flyer David Nofoaluma scored a similar spectacular try last season and together they just blow away what the old standard used to be.

I was already set to write about that try and its effects on our sport when I overheard a conversation while travelling Sunday arvo. The stalwart ABC commentary team of ex-coach Warren Ryan and David Morrow were giving Manly’s David Williams’s performances as a winger a super workout.

“You and I could score 20 tries a season outside Jamie Lyon “The Wok” said without any humour in putting down the artist formerly known as The Wolfman.  Sounding suitably infatuated “Thirsty” responded that HE couldn’t but felt pretty sure “The Wok” could achieve such lofty heights made simple by Lyons incredible skills.

The analytical duo went further in ensuring that Williams’ limitations and weaknesses were fully clarified for us in nailing his grand final performance to the proverbial mast. His inability in defence and particularly dealing with Daniel Tupou’s leaping into the heavens in that GF winning display got plenty of airtime too.

While agreeing with the point about Lyon’s exquisite centre play and acknowledging that Williams could do much to improve other defensive aspects of his play I felt they missed a couple of points to give it some sort of balance.

The first being that Williams is not on his own as many players down through the ages have indeed had that good fortune of playing outside a genius as Lyon most definitely is in attack.

Also they didn’t give credit to the role that wingers play in complementing those gifted providers or in what they all need to do without the ball. The great wingers make it look easy and the rookies or inept make it look as if it is impossible to play there successfully.

I guess what had sharpened my attention to this dialogue was other performances by wingers not just Morris and Noafuloama on Super Saturday. Not all fell into that rarified air of excellence.

In that tight affair in NQ on Saturday night I thought the wingers probably decided the match.  At least the Cowboys wingers played significant roles in a couple of devastating moments – these are the other kinds of moments that wingers, like fullbacks, tend to deal in. Rocks and diamonds territory. Or maybe emergency services people. They may not get called on a lot but when they do its usually vital.

Early in the match Antonia Winterstein received the ball in an unopposed situation, simply needing to reach a little out for the pass and run on a few metres only to complete the Cowboys opening score for the night. What happened turned out to be a match loser.

For an experienced player who has scored tries in this situation many times over it was hard to believe. Winterstein messed it up by simply falling over, tripping himself, with no opponent around until he tried to get up and scramble in but by then, losing out on the easiest of opportunities.

Likewise his right wing partner, the inexperienced Kyle Feldt blew a chance under immense pressure when he received a pass to put him in with a great chance to salvage the scoreboard and snatch a memorable if undeserved victory for the Cows with just a minute or so remaining. This time there was less space but more than enough for the top flight guys who know and accept that just relatively tiny spaces must be capitalised on in those top speed score or don’t win situations.

Feldt dived in without a hand laid on him and rejoiced momentarily. He had shown a real lack of NRL level winger’s awareness in putting his boot ever so narrowly on the touchline without knowing it. The top guys NEVER do this unless forced by the defence hitting them.  They always know precisely where their touchline is.

The Warriors fortunes changed on a lot more than those 2 incidents but none more vital.

It cost North Queensland the game.

I reckon Feldt will be working hard on that aspect on wing play but I do wonder if he has had this elite level of coaching as a youngster – it’s harder to add once you are already operating in “the big pool”. Perhaps like a lot of us as youngsters, he may well have had the coaching but not prioritised his coach’s words. Sometimes we “young boofheads” need a very hard loss to make us aware of all the little things that do really matter in executing a win at that level.

The Panthers win over the Dogs was another match featuring wingers with issues of awareness. Veteran Dave Simmons who has become a prolific try scorer in recent seasons showed the way for the others by positioning himself outside his shorter Bulldog opponent on a last play cross field kick. As he became aware that his defensive opposite was way too far in from the touchline, Simmons simply let the ball come marginally over the head of his scrambling marker, leapt to ensure he got first crack at the catch and put it down like it was the most simple of activities.

It was a very embarrassing moment for any defensive winger, even a rookie like Corey Thompson. Like Feldt lacked the awareness of where the sideline was Thompson appeared unaware of what play was about to unfold, his own position related to the touchline or his opponent’s position.

It was too easy!

There were many other moments in the game for Simmons to show his deep knowledge of his craft in an outstanding winger’s game. Attention to those details is the business he and all wingers work in – whether they know it or not.

In an isolated incident of “defensive wing play” the Bulldogs exposed the Panthers left sided scrum formation when Jamie Soward was made to look like the novice or completely un-skilled winger he is when his opposing right winger scored without a hand being laid on him directly off a scrum. I suggest Panthers find a different way of “hiding” Soward in future defensive scrum situations.

That play by Morris on its own proves to me that wing play in attack may now be on another planet with those incredible leaping contortionists doing superb things to put those vital points on the board.

When it comes to defence some guys on the wing, finding themselves in challenging situations, look as if they are from another planet when required to provide the solution to save their teammates from a big play success and often a loss.

Quality coaching to provide that deeper understanding of positional play is vital to the development and improvement of these players who need to be experts in the science of wing play.

P.S.

 After watching the Eels narrow loss to Manly and Williams’s direct opponent Radradra win the Channel 9 MOM you could be forgiven for agreeing in full with ex-Coach Ryan’s pre-match comments.

However a note balance follows.

Radradra is and will continue to be a beast in attack which will always catch the eye of the judges.

He is also a complete novice in defence (although not nearly as raw as his teammate, fellow winger Toutai). They will both cause all associated with Parra some painful headaches and lots of heartache too I suspect before they can operate equally well on both sides of the attack/defence seesaw for wingers.