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To my mind, the best two hookers in the competition are Cameron Smith and Jake Granville. You know, they both play for the two teams that made the grand final.

It continues to astound me how how under-rated attacking hookers are in Rugby League. Year after year, we see hookers making clear and obvious differences to their teams, particularly when it gets down to the business end of the season.

For me, that comes down to how well-drilled defensive teams are these days, particularly when they are set. So much so that all teams are generally willing to give away penalties, even in their own 20, because they believe that with a set defensive line they can hold out the opposition. Unless you can first effect a break-down in that defensive set-up, it’s very, very difficult - even with the best halves in the world, or the most effective structures - to broach NRL defences.

There are basically two ways to crack open a defence, so that your rivals don’t quite manage to number up properly. The first is to have a big bopper who can skittle defenders, and cause too many defenders to get involved with the ruck, while effecting a quick play the ball. However, the second is the hooker. The hooker can provide that level of unpredictability in a team’s attack that causes defensive structures to break down. A great hooker is constantly counting the numbers, and poking for holes or vulnerability. A good hooker can suddenly decide to kick when nobody is expecting it. A great hooker turns a quick play-the-ball into a momentum changing charge of dummy half.

At the same time, your hooker is normally your biggest defensive vulnerability in the middle of the park. He can be giving away 30kg and represents an easy target for big forwards to aim at, as first contact.

Yet the hooker is treated as almost a peripheral figure in many teams. Much of the criticism directed as Des Hasler centred around his unwillingness to let his number nine do much more than shuffle the ball from dummy half. Jason Taylor, when ejecting Robbie Farah, stated publicly that he wanted his halves to run the team, not the dummy half. And how many hookers in the competition are on elite money? It would not surprise me if Cameron Smith and perhaps Isaac Luke are the only hookers in the competition on more than $500k per year.

There also seems to be a general unwillingness to “manufacture” a hooker. Most of today’s hookers, grew up playing the role. That despite the fact, that there have been plenty of examples of players shifting into the role with success. Peter Wallace, most recently at Penrith went from has-been to possible Origin contender, and Ben Hunt’s best footy of the year came when he was thrust into the role at Brisbane.

For me, your hooker needs to just be a great all-round footy player. A lot of other positions require very specific traits - you really need a bunch of speed to be successful as a fullback, you need playmaking abilities to be a half, or size to play in the forwards. Your perfect hooker is fast, has playmaking skills and is a strong defender. It means that a hooker with the right skillset could really come from any position. A fullback who doesn’t quite have the necessary speed, a lock who isn’t quite big-enough to play in the forwards, a half who doesn’t quite have the necessary playmaking abilities.

And these experiments don’t have to work straight away. Hookers get better with age. Cameron Smith is obviously playing terrific football deep into his 30s, Jake Granville only made his debut at 24, Michael Ennis probably had his best year both in terms of success and individual performances in his final year.

So hooker is the one role where I think you really need to look outside of the box - and not just pick from the pool of number nines - but to judge players on their all-round playing abilities, and to take the time to manufacture a number nine. Because certainly recent history has shown that when its gets down to September, it’s been the teams that have the elite hookers who are the ones that are going all the way.

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One of the biggest reasons for the lack of attacking hookers and halfbacks for that matter is junior league, the rules. Anybody that is involved in junior league would know the 2 pass rule. If a hooker/dummy half runs the ball without passing the ball and gets tackled it results in a hand over to the defending team. As a result of this, attacking or running players are not suited to playing in these positions. Coaches will always pick there best attackers and runners at 1,3,4 or 6. Hookers and halfbacks are only used as ball distributors.


(13) The play-the-ball shall be as normal in the International Laws. However:
(a) No markers are allowed.
(b) The acting halfback and the player receiving the ball from the
acting halfback may, on receiving the ball, either pass the ball or run
themselves. Should they elect to run, not score and be tackled, then
their team forfeits possession. A member of the opposite team will then
play the ball for play to recommence. (Two Pass Law)

Hey Slip, they have actually changed that rule at junior level now. The six and seven now get to wear vests that let mean they can run from dummy half and first-reciever respectively, so you do now want your best players wearing those vests (and they force you to rotate the vests at half-time to spread it to at least four players in your team).

It's probably the best rule change every brought into junior league in my opinion for all the reasons you've cited. I think its been in place for two, maybe three years now.

It will be interesting to see what impact that has in a few years I guess.

What I do think about junior rugby league is that its a pretty natural instinct to put your little boys into that hooking role as they're nippy out of dummy half, but as they grow they might not be the best bodies suited for the rigours of defending in the middle.

Finally , a worthy topic . I love the new Phil .

I remember one time at Midnight Delight we waited like half an hour for the selection to start showing themselves my mate jumped the gun and picked the first bird that came out who was let's say , less than desirable , and then about 30 seconds after he took off with her 3 of the hottest birds strolled out and I got my pick of the bunch . The frown on his face when my bird returned me to the waiting room afterwards was priceless .


Lol. Don’t you just hate that.....?

I would like to see BA give King more time and have Smith on the bench. Smith played well at dummy half when put in that position and can cover any position in the back line a good utility. As for Kaysa he tries hard but is a poor mans hooker and to small for lock or second row so imo he offers nothing and would be a waste of a position. 

I'm expecting licha to have a big year under a new coach he has the attacking ability

Oh I thought  this was about something else my bad

I was really impressed with King during the backend of the season. Not afraid to kick, not afraid to steal a try from dummy half, not afraid to take on the line for quick metres or to catch unset markers for a penalty. He seemed to play what was in front of him. Did he have the vision or precision of Cam Smith? No. But I still think he was a great asset to our team and to the No 9 jersey.

I agree that it's an underrated position, but I think we should stick with King and see how he develops. As for whether his body is up for it... Well, that's another question entirely.
Sighh !! I said it before and I'll say it again, he has a nice passing game , strong front one on one defender, long kicking game ,good reader & talker, still reasonably quick and most of all the hooking position will keep this bastard honest and will make him earn his keep. J.Hayne......wot ya rec ?

Cameron King anyone?

I wrote a book once titled the "Tale of Two Hookers", Warner Brothers have made an offer to turn it into a film to be maid on the Gold Coast.

Who says a hooker has to defend in the middle and give away30kg.
I agree best dummy half is someone who can attack and cause defensive line to hesitate.
If the best dummy half is a bit smaller but is fast why can't he defend at centre or elsewhere in the line on edge.
What got me thinking of this is you get players such as Darius Boyd and moylan at fullback but play more like a 5/8. Why not switch other positions from traditional positions in attack and defence. Would allow more flexibility with roster and means best attacking players not being burnt out in defence.
Maybe parra could move players when defending, then switching when on the attack.
Defence put French at fullback as he reads play better then gutho and with his speed can cover kicks much more efficiently. Would allow gutho defend on wing and cover less ground. Is bigger body to stop some of the monster outside backs as well. gutho then be fresher for attack as fullback covers most ground on field.
While in attack gutho needs be closer to ball where French has proven deadly on wing where it seems most teams using big men that no longer fastest man on team. French can burn them with pace everytime.

Also 2nd rowers such as manu mau or taka could be affective as a centre in attack using strength or offloads to put winger away but they get caught out defensively because their speed. Is Kaysa, King or Smith quick enough to defend at centre. It would allow dummy half defend at centre allowing 2nd rower play centre in attack while having another bigger body in the middle for defensive line.
Doing less defence at centre would also mean the dummy half fresh for attack instead making 50+ tackles a game.

This solves where play taka questions. He could defend in middle but attack at centre where proven ability to offload and also has good shirt kicking game inside opposition 30m.


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