The Modern Centre

OK, so I think it was BEM that asked me in the recent "New Signing" blog whether I thought Opacic was a starter or a depth player. To answer that firstly, yes, I think he's a definite starter. I'm basing this on seeing him play a fair bit of footy with the Redcliffe Dolphins, he was a class above that comp playing in the centres and got his start with the Broncos on the back of that good form. He's had some bad luck with injuries that have hampered him in his stints at the Broncos and Cowboys, but there's no doubt he can play and I think he's defensively very sound. That brings me to the next question, just what is the role of the current day NRL centre? To my mind, the game has changed and obviously the old attacking centre such as Steve Rogers, Michael O'Connor, Laurie Daley and even Brett Kenny when playing as a centre, are long gone.

Look at who are considered "strike centres" these days, there's really not anyone that springs to mind as an out and out game breaking centre. I think the reason for this is that the position has changed considerably due to the introduction of the left/right centre and in particular the left/right edge backrowers. Some of the ones that may be classed as strike centres are Staggs, but he has defensive issues to fix, likewise, Crichton at the Panthers - in fact, Waqa made him look 2nd rate in the game we beat the Panthers early in 2020, he ran around him, through him, over him - he was completely on top of him. Jimmy the Jet, again can score a try, but defensively very poor at times.

This leads me to my current belief that centre should now be a predominantly more defensive orientated position than attacking. That may sound strange, but I still maintain centre is the hardest position to defend in on the park. There's reasons for that, the attacking use of block plays and decoy runners is designed to have players in motion and put defenders in 2 minds. Not only that, but depending on what just happened in the preceding tackle, your centre can be defending with his edge backrower inside him or the 6 or 7 that defends on that side. Obviously this inside player will affect how you defend - your 6 or 7 is more than likely going to need more assistance bringing down the opposition edge forward which then tends to have the centre staying closer to that 6/7. If it's the edge forward marked up on the opposite edge forward, you would hope that allows your centre to stay a little wider and right on the inside shoulder of his opposing centre. So all of a sudden, people need to realise that the modern day centre is not only supposed to be concentrating on his opposition centre, the block and decoy runners and the attacking structure coming at them in general, they also have to be very mindful of what is happening inside them as well. As soon as you see your centre, quickly followed by his winger, with their outside shoulder facing in, you know you are in trouble and the opposition has created the numbers.

So, all this brings me back to what we need to recruit as far as outside back depth goes - for me, it has to be a very solid defender first and foremost and an attacking option somewhere after that. As for attacking, your modern centre doesn't have to be that bloke that breaks the line, and be a match winner. He has to be someone that can position his winger and take advantage of what happens inside him. Look at some of the current centres that are successful in attack and I'll nearly guarantee you they have an outstanding edge backrower inside them - Crichton and Kikau at the Panthers is the perfect example. Keep your width, get your winger to keep his width (and depth is probably just as important) and you should just have to use hands to execute putting that winger over courtesy of what your edge backrower has created in drawing in your opposing centre. It really isn't that difficult. I reckon I could draw up a simple sweep play that would allow 4 or 5 players to all be scoring options and at the very least it's a simple draw and pass from centre to winger on the opposing winger. To this end, we now have Lane, Matto and Cartwright as potential edge backrowers who are ALL capable of executing a play like this to bring in the opposition centre and create the overlap. Practice, practice and more practice at training executing these sweep plays and quick hands then becomes the key to having it work during games.

I'm not sure who we are looking at, maybe Burns from the Bunnies as suggested, but I would hope that we are looking at a defensive orientated centre with good hands because we certainly have the talent in the edge backrowers to make the attacking component of our centres an easy job.

 

 

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  • https://youtu.be/7zBW-xFvblc

  • If you watch a NRL.com video titled Parramatta best 5 tries of 2020, Jennings features in a few of those,mostly putting Sivo away.He will be missed.Defensively as well but He is just overall a great centre.If we can find a good defensive centre great,but he has to be able to deceptively beat his man ,position himself to bring the opposite winger in then put our guy away.That is where Jennings is good,creating something from nothing.However watch the Burns highlights and you'll see he is special. Waqa can run but cannot draw and pass or tackle.

  • Good blog mate.

    I concur with your comments on Opacic, particularly at the Dophins, both he and Staggs were always stand outs in that comp and Tommy boy took that into FG. To me if fit Opacic is a walk up start for a centre position - here's to remaining injury free.

    The one point I will take you up on is your lack of mention of Cover Defence. IF a team numbers up then there should be sufficient cover defence coming across to alleviate much of the centre's problem. Eg, block runners (which imo is one of, if not, the biggest blight on the game) 

    "Back in the Day" cover defence from the forwards was critical and as I said, if a team numbers up on the attack a lot of these types of problems would not exist.

    Permanently playing 2nd rowers in the back line at least saves some energy getting across in defence, however there should be at least one other forward trailing the ball as it goes across the line. Playing edge forwards in the back line is simply replacing the two centres from days of old with two centres either side of the ruck.

    With N Brown, Papali'i and Nuikore all slotted for lock I think any one of those could be included as edge forward if required and Hipgrave does not come to us as a broken down hack. Good strength out there imo.

    All in all I cannot find a great deal to argue about with your blog.

    • I agree re cover defence to a degree, but what you need to be careful of nowadays is that the defensive lines are set according to the ruck - A defenders, B defenders and so on. You start getting those inside forwards doing the traditional cover defence and things start getting out of whack and opposition hookers will take advantage if they're good enough. Nowadays they tend to "shuffle" across field for want of a better word. Once again, that leaves your outside backs needing to number up and call that shuffle across. I'm not sure what today's centres would think of having to defend like we did in the old days with an inside and outside centre (of which I was an outside one) where we moved from one side of the field to the other with the opposition backline!!! The traditional halfback cover defence - think Sterlo and Mortimer - is gone, it is replaced with the fullback barking orders as to where the forwards should be "shuffling".

      I think there's still room for the good old run around play, but with a slight difference. Let's say you want to attack the right edge. Start with 1 hit up to the posts then 2 to the left of the uprights to get you about 10-15 from the left touchline. Reed then finds Moses who drifts across, dummies to bring the forward underneath that took the 1st hit up on a decoy line from the right post back to the left. While this is happening Reed continues the drift across, Moses passes to Matto running straight, who then turns his back at the defensive line and finds Reed wrapping around. Ideally Gutho has followed on Reeds right shoulder, this gives Reed 2 options - if the outside backs have come up, short ball to Gutho and there should be a gap, if not, Gutho runs a decoy to bring the opposite centre toward him and Reed finds Waqa who is all of a sudden 2 on 1 with Fergo on the opposite winger. Try. Ditto for running it to the opposite side. The players practice practice practice and I guarantee they'll find a gap - either Reed himself, Gutho or Waqa will be in space and Fergo available on a simple 2 on 1.

      • And therein lies th eloss of what used to be a great game.

        Set positions with no flexibility - No actually watching what is happening, simply be in your position and hope the oppostion know they are supposed to follow suit.

        Middle 15, do NOT go outside of your desiganted middle 15. Side 15s, do NOT go inside your desiganted 15.

        I played 2nd row and inside centre "back in the day" I was a left side 2nd rower but if I had to run all the way across to the right to make a tackle, that is what I did.

        Too much structure and no enough talent or playing what is in front of you.

        Cam Smith (the biggest grub this game has ever seen imo) did exactly as you said, he "shuffled" across field and everyone would invariably stand and watch him trying to figure out what he was up to.

        Nine times out of ten he was a sitting target but "strcuture" stopped anyone from smashing him. He rarely showed any real pace out of dh but still remained uncatchable. WHY?

        One of the worst aspects of todays game is players invariably do not get smashed when they are a sitting target. Man has ball, smash man with ball, if he gets rid of it before you smash him, smash him anyway (providing it is not a late tackle) and you have taken himm out of the equation.

        Some simple basics still apply but are under utilised.

        Having said that I would imagine if I was in my 20s today and playing I would be doing the same dumb things we see from players today, because that is how I would have learned to play.

        Walker brothers - Ipswich Jets, sacked all wrestling coaches, adopted old scholl hit him hard put them on the deck principle, won a premiership and have pplayed finals most years for the past 

        The Walker brothers coached the Ipswich Jets to Intrust Super Cup and NRL State Championship titles in 2015 and guided the club to six finals appearances in nine years. The three seasons the Jets missed the semi-finals it was by just one win - from Wiki.

        Interesting article worth a read imo.

        https://www.nrl.com/news/2020/07/16/warriors-ceo-why-walker-brother....

        They didn't reinvent the game, just simplified it. Why the Warriors went for Nathan Brown instead of these guys is beyond me.

        IF - and I am certain it will not happen in the next 2 - 3 years, the Eels did punt Bushy, I would throw the book at these lads.

        INNOVATION.

        Look for Bushy to get another extension around mid year if the Eels are in the top 6.

        Warriors CEO: Why Walker brothers are in coaching frame
        Ben and Shane Walker are known for their attacking innovations but their man management and defensive strategies are also why they're in the frame to…
        • Why would you even ask that Dreggsie?

          • So he can once again prove what a waste of space he is. Dead set goose.

            • You and Poppa the first to be sucked in again lads.

              You will never learn, will you.

              • Sorry Mr Kettle or  is your name Pot?

              • Spot on Col.

                They don't have the ability to ignore something they don't agree with.

                All they do is cause a stir by reacting the way they do.

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