Pedestrian dummy half play as a root cause to our problems

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. 

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  • Couldn't agree more . Reed Mahoney is the most overrated player in the game . There are things he does well but he's been outplayed by guys like JMK and Lachlan Croker pretty convincingly. 

    To think many Eels fans wanted him to be our next captain. Based on what ? Listen to him speak he's as intelligent as a potato .  Must be because of a good 2021 season which he again didn't finish through injury ?

    • Oi mate ... he almost played Origin yaknow. 

      • yeah in 2021 which was a career year for him.. poles apart from any other season in attack when the rules were completely out of whack around the ruck. 

        Unfortunately he ended up missing the 9 jumper because they moved a halfback there after their normal 9 wasn't available. So there's 2 in front of him at least and the field has about 4 in it . He's not close . 

        • Funny isn't it , our superstar 9 who people claim is top 3 in his feild gets pipped by a makeshift 9 and a 9 that'd played a handful of games and was given to another club . 

  • Reeds only real asset is his long pass from dummy half, which any young hooker can learn. He is very limited in attack apart from the odd decent kick. He is very replaceable. 

  • you say we must lay a platform but then say we cant sustain that physicality or motivation week in week out because it requires brute force effort. Penrith have big boys but dont need to bust there bodies every week as they dont run into the eye of the storm.

     

    Mate seriously sounds like a contradiction. BA is attempting to build a physical team. Give him 1 just 1 xfactor player and we are a different team, a Tedesco, a Hayne, a Turbo, a Munster, a Latrell type etc.

     

    In saying that a Dummy half that has a running game a kicking game and a leaders brain would be invaluable.

    For the record Mahoney this week ran 3 times

    Korisau 4 times

    Brailey 5 times 

    Cook 7 times

     To be honest I always thought the forwards had to play tough , win the ruck, bend them back to lay the platform with a quick play the ball for a dummy half to run.  That is  what BA is demanding of his forwards, perhaps the lack of penetration by the forwards stops Mahoney from running. Either way Id prefer Hodgson.

     

    • It is a difficult one - yes Mahoney does lack a bit in his running game at times and doesn't engage the markers anough. But he is still the best hooker we have had in a long time. Don't mind not paying overs for him and agree he has been off a bit this year compared to some of his creative play last year (often with Junior). Just hope Hodgson can get and stay fit and we can have a decent back up. When criticising Mahoney I think it is important to consider how much better he has been compared to: Cameron King, Kaysa Pritchard, Matt Keating etc. Peats and De Gois were decent but not particularly creative. He hs more upside than any other hooker we have had in the past 10 years

    • Respectfully, you're missing the point. If you have a dummy half that engages the markers, you don't have to "bend the line" by crashing through a brick wall every play. If the runner is able to get in behind the ruck, your far more likely to draw a legs tackle of squeeze between defenders, get to your front and get a quick play the ball. Out style of play requires us to win a big collision on every single ruck. That's a recipe for inconsistency or burn-out - and we've experienced one or the other every year. Quite frankly, I prefer the inconsistency if it means we go into September fresher.

      Let's not mistake "running the ball" with "engaging the marker". Mahoney has a good scoot. If you get a marker down, he'll go and look for metres. That's not the same as getting out and connecting with your attackers.

      Again, I don't think is Mahoney. I think he's more than capable of playing a more creative game. I think it's our structures.

        • Ok, so when a team sets up you have your A defender who is the man closest to the marker, it's usually the first man to release from a three-man tackle and is the guy who will typically end up blading. Your B defender is the guy who is likely to take first contact, and your C defender will support. When you pass flat past the marker your passing straight into the path of the B defender. When you engage the marker, the objective is to cut back towards the A defender. Your runners come off a shorter run off, and they use early footwork to get in behind the marker. with the objective of getting a fast play the ball. You move off the line too quickly against this style of play and you're not going to make the first tackle. But yes you are sacrificing pre-contact metres for post-contact metres and fast play the balls. When you get a fast play the ball, it then becomes a roll because the hooker can now get out, with possibly a marker down and you've stopped the linespeed entirely. As I mentioned, this style of play also makes it easier to have an alternative runner, because it's easier for the alternate to time his run because the hooker takes responsibility for the timing. Watch how often Liam Martin will take a short side hit up on 3/4. But watch the good next-generation hookers and Brailey is fantastic in this regard, they are always moving forward, and that lessens the time that is sacrificed. 

          So yes, it would require an overhaul of the way we play. What I'm saying is that the way we play, and if you listen to BA it's all he talks about, playing tough and physical, can win you games but I'm just not sure if it can win you a season.

          • sorry Tk i deleted my comment by mistake whilst fixing up some spelling errors.

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