Shorts and Sweets July 5

05/07/2013

Shorts and Sweets July 5

The Benji saga rolls on. It would be a shame if he leaves the Tigers after such an outstanding career. I met him at Campbelltown before he made his debut as a schoolboy. He looked like a movie star but became a footy star.

These situations are never easy. No-one wants it to end. Roosters and Mini will be dancing to this music sometime soon too. But it’s footy business and no place for favours just tough decision making. It may be good to keep him for his value to sponsors and fans but will he help them win games in future seasons.

My view is he has lost his incredible speed and that has been like Samson losing his biblical hair. It’s been a very long time since Benji looked like the player of old. A few seasons back he really had a dig at improving his tackling and defensive duties but that has faded. He does not look like he enjoys being tackled to me and that’s always a give-away.

With his loss of speed so too have his threats in attack and particularly on his kick for himself and regain.

This doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t stay or the Tigers shouldn’t keep him but I reckon there needs be a heap of honesty between player and coach and other execs as the joint venture club tries to rebuild a pretty ordinary looking club at present. That discussion should be very frank about what the future holds for them both parties should the partnership continue with a contract extension.

So if your team is defending like this, holding up the ball carrier, it could be that they are giving up an error-forcing opportunity to get the ball back and if they don’t get pressure on kickers or decide not to use a line with aggressive attitude in getting forward fast they become highly likely to do without possession for many long periods of time.

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Kick offs – why don’t more teams kick short? A good hanging short kick off can land on the 40 to 30m line, if the kicking team doesn’t get it back they probably concede a loss 15m of field position but have the chance to get the ball back at about 50% success rate with just a bit of practice.

Why not take the chance? Don’t trust their defence to hold from 60m starts instead of 85m? Don’t trust their kickers or chasers? With some outstanding kickers and jumpers that seems strange.

There is also the opportunity to keep them pinned to the sideline rather than letting them get to the middle as most long kick offs do. The Panthers duo of Docker and Plum for instance could do some real damage on the next play as some poor sucker carries long side with the entire middle defence.

Those two unfashionables are having great seasons for Ivan Cleary’s understated team. They hit hard and often I n a league of “cuddle and control” tacklers they are throwbacks to Folkes and Gillespie and for those with real good memories South Sydney’s big Charlie Frith. There was no focus on holding them up and taking them to ground slowly with those hitters. It was more like stopping their progress in a hurry and the ball carrier getting up to check which part of his anatomy was still in the same place it was before he caught the ball.

This allows retreating defensive line players ample time to make the 10 metre trip back to the ref and be ready to come forward again as the ball is played. It lowers the likelihood of penalties by “wrestling” on the ground if the ball carrier gets to ground quickly after contact in the tackle. Refs are drilled to penalise delaying tactics for infringements in that area of our game.

No biff involved just skilful and aggressive tackling.