Stop­ping tries key to ti­tle

Sunday News - - LEAGUE - ROY MAS­TERS

OPINION: DE­FENCE will win the 2017 premier­ship.

In a sea­son where all 16 NRL teams have ra­cheted up their at­tack, some very soft tries have been scored over the past month.

All teams re­main­ing in the play-offs can score tries; some from struc­ture, oth­ers from freak­ish play and in­creas­ingly where luck and the bunker play a role.

There­fore, the team which shuts the op­po­si­tion out best will win this year’s ti­tle.

The chal­lenge to coaches of stop­ping tries, rather than scor­ing them, is sig­nif­i­cant in terms of the mo­men­tum ver­sus rest-an­dregroup de­bate.

Im­me­di­ately a team loses in the first week­end of the play-offs, it rolls out the mo­men­tum the­ory, ar­gu­ing it is bet­ter to play on and iron out faults on the field un­der in­tense pres­sure.

Par­ra­matta, fol­low­ing their loss to the Storm in the qual­i­fy­ing week­end, noted that a week’s rest had been a dis­ad­van­tage in the past.

One Eel, Kenny Ed­wards, pointed to their play af­ter byes be­ing dis­jointed, and there­fore pre­ferred to ap­proach the 2017 grand fi­nal “the hard way.”

Bron­cos coach, Wayne Ben­nett, af­ter the loss to the Roost­ers in the same week­end, looked like a man who knew what to do, but that doesn’t mean he had the means at his dis­posal.

There are drills to fix up al­most any­thing in the NRL and coaches will be work­ing hard to sim­u­late the con­di­tions where gaps have ap­peared in the de­fen­sive line and tries been scored.

Ben­nett was busy with the whis­tle this week, en­cour­ag­ing, ca­jol­ing, in­struct­ing and en­thus­ing – but whether an­other week of drills, free of hav­ing to play a game, would have helped mend the Bron­cos’ por­ous de­fen­sive line is doubt­ful.

They have se­ri­ous de­fen­sive prob­lems on both edges, es­pe­cially in the cen­tres, and fiveeighth An­thony Mil­ford is er­ratic de­fen­sively.

While the Roost­ers will have been happy with the week off, it doesn’t mean it was the an­swer to their prob­lems.

They have been a scratchy team, play­ing with mo­ments of bril­liance and then pe­ri­ods of seem­ing dis­in­ter­est.

The Storm have all troops on deck, mean­ing they didn’t need a week off to wait for in­jured stars to re­turn. They had a wor­ry­ing lead-in to the semis, with three easy matches against the Knights, Rab­bitohs and Raiders.

The Storm, there­fore, needed a hard match and, if the Eels had not put up much re­sis­tance, Mel­bourne would have gone to the pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal well un­der­done.

But Par­ra­matta gave the Storm what they needed: a gi­ant scare. Even when the Storm hit the front in the sec­ond half, to lead by eight points, fate worked in their favour.

Had winger Josh Addo-Carr’s boot not touched a speck of side­line white and he been al­lowed a try, the score could have blown out. A 14-point lead could have given the Storm a false sense of se­cu­rity.

In­stead, the Eels came back with a con­verted try and the Storm had to hold on to a ner­vous two-point buf­fer.

So the Storm got what they needed with­out hav­ing to play all four week­ends of the semis. Grand fi­nal win­ners in­vari­ably come from the teams which en­joyed the week’s rest, but that statis­tic was partly built on the pre-2012 fi­nals sys­tem where the mi­nor premier played the eighth-placed team; the sec­ond-placed team played the sev­enth-placed, and so on.

Now, with 1 v 4 and 2 v 3, the top games are com­pet­i­tive but in­crease the chances of los­ing in week one.

While the Storm don’t have in­juries that would have ruled any­one out of play­ing this week­end, some play­ers have corks which pre­vent them train­ing ro­bustly.

Train­ing will be dis­rupted while re­serves take the places of the wounded but, by Monday, Bel­lamy should have a top 17 to train to­gether for the rest of the week.

So, the real ad­van­tage of a week off is the op­por­tu­nity to rest those with mi­nor in­juries, al­low­ing a full-on week of in­tense train­ing.

But then comes a fur­ther test: how does the coach man­age the heavy con­tact drills to avoid in­juries to stars?

The Roost­ers and Storm must do some con­tact to en­sure they sharpen the play­ers’ de­fen­sive skills but their coaches must make it as safe as pos­si­ble.

All NRL teams have sim­i­lar de­fen­sive struc­tures and the team which tack­les best, hold­ing on to the ball car­rier and putting him to the ground, will win the 2017 premier­ship.

‘ The team which tack­les best will win the 2017 premier­ship.’

SUN-HER­ALD

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