Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Skillful NZ RL Players

..........................sorry are you waiting for something? Oh, the skillful Kiwi RL players. Well, I am waiting too. I suppose there is Shaun Johnson but he runs hot and cold. Of course, skillful players don't grow on trees but are carefully nurtured and have the will to practice, practice, practice with good coaches. The best players deliver consistently such as Cam Smith, Cooper Cronk and JT. So let's take two examples that I have seen in NZ of how not to do things.

Exhibit 1: Some years back I went to Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland to watch the Warriors. At the half time break they had two teams of small boys play. On one side, there was a big lad, head and shoulders above the rest of the players. His team had been given a tactical plan by the coach, pass it to the big boy. He would run through the inadequate defence and score. The process was repeated ad nauseum.

The reaction: People all around me were impressed at what they were seeing. I meanwhile, was cringing in my seat wondering why he wasn't playing in a grade higher.

My take: What was this big boy learning skill wise? Run straight and you score every time, just like in the professional game. Really? How about his team mates? They stood and watched. The defenders? Some of the parents may see this mismatch of sizes and think their son would be better off playing soccer.

Exhibit 2: More recently I was watching on television a game between two sides with the players around the 16 to 17 year age. It was a final and all the players with big, burly lads with one relatively slight young man who was a decent tactical kicker. The coach of the other team had a plan, get the kicker. Every time he kicked, he was hit late..repeatedly. They were penalised but it persisted. Then the warnings came and eventually a ten minute sin binning. By that time, the kicker was too hurt to continue playing. The dirty team went on to win.

The reaction: The referee was so slow to sort the problem, the only skillful player on the pitch was 'neutralised'. Thuggery 1, skill 0.

My take: I would have penalised and also warned after the first late shot, sin binned for the second and started sending players for any late hits thereafter. Is the game to reward thuggery, or skill and fair play?

A top NZ player who now is in Australia has just come out and said ""Back in New Zealand the game is about power and running over someone instead of skill, tactics and kicking game". "Kicking games are non-existent until you come to the under-20s. It's all about physical football – not completions or wrestle. Australia have a lot of halves and people that are smart footballers. The pathways in New Zealand aren't as good."

Wow, that is so obvious but no one in NZ RL administration either cares or has the intelligence to realise. The administrators need to have a system in place that encourages skill, not brute force. Until that happens, the vast talent that NZ RL has at it's disposal will not reach its potential.

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