If you look at all of the top teams right now, one of the consistent elements they have is creativity around dummy half. I was really struck during Origin, at the difference that Grant made, and I thought Cook was the one taking us forward - because both are looking to engage the markers, at every opportunity.
If you look at Korisau at Penrith, Grant at Melbourne, Robson at Cowboys and Brailey at the Sharks, you've got hookers who look to get out, engage the marker and work both sides of the ruck.
Parramatta's dummy half play by comparison is traditional. The ball is passed off the ground to a flat runner. You always know exactly who is going to be first receiver, and then they rely on variety from the first receiver, typically a forward, to tip on, turn insider or go out the back. The problem, and I think this a root cause to our inability to dominate games is that if your bring a huge amount of energy to your defence, get off the line really quickly and be really physical in your D, you can zero in on that first receiver, and either restrict their go-forward, or even better, force errors by asking big forward to think more quickly than they are capable of with their interchange passing.
When compared to teams, who have multiple options off the dummany half and a hooker that gets out, they can always turn the ball inside on an X play, which is a great weapon against a rushing defence, or redirect the play to their second runner down the short side (Penrith is the master of this).
There is nothing wrong with our use of interchange passing between the forwards, but it requires a platform to be laid first. You want the defensive line to be on the heels, and ideally staggered which opens up big gaps in the middle. If you watch when Papali'i put RGC through that hole, the defence has waited and it's not straight.
The two games we lost against bottom teams, we came up against two teams who played with enormous energy and linespeed, as both were desperate and knew if they were going to win they had to do it on effort. We make it easier for teams to do this, because of our lack of variety from dummy half, meaning they can focus their energy in the middle and if we're not on, we'll invariably get frustrated and go out the back before we're going forward. Again, good linespeed is our kryptonite here because if the defence is up on us, we're at risk of throwing intercepts, which happened or nearly happened on multiple occasions.
When we play the top teams, we're far more patient - they know points need to be earned, and we are capable of being very, very physical when the needs arise. But you can't sustain that physicality or motivation week-in, week-out. It requires a brute force effort from every player on the park This is why we are either inconsistent or we hit massive flat spots when we run out of gas. Penrith have big boys but they don't need to bust their bodies every week, because they don't run into the eye of the storm on every carry.
I don't think it is a Reed Mahoney thing. I think this is a BA thing. We play like this all the way through the grades and even into the juniors. I think it's symptomatic of why we didn't really fight for Reed Mahoney, because when all your dummy half is doing is passing off the ground, it's not a difficult job. If we're going to play this way, Reed Mahoney probably isn't the right hooker for us anyway, because he's not being afforded enough creative freedom to make up for his defensive size.
The signing of Josh Hodgson then is intriguing because he as much as any one (well Cameron Smith aside) pioneered the playmaking dummy half. We're going to have to play entirely differently to make use of his skillset.