I think it’s obvious A Woods stats are down so I did a bit of research and found this.
Pre Origin Averages
183 metres per game
58 minutes per game
20 hit ups per game
9.15 metres per carry
1 hit up every 3 minutes of game time
Since Origin 1
130 metres per game (including a game of 200+ the week after Origin 1)
59 minutes per game
14 hit ups per game
9.3 metres per carry
1 hit up every 4 and a bit minutes per game
Obviously this could be simply because as a team we are getting less possession and he subsequently is getting less hit ups but there is a correlation with Woods getting big metres and us winning games.
My hypothesis is that as the season has wore on, and his post Origin hangover has kicked in, he has been less enthusiastic to get involved in the play, especially on kick return sets. Often lately I am seeing sets go;
Opposition kick > Tedesco hit up > Naqaiama hit up > Richards hit up > Simona hit up > Lovett hit up > bomb
And we make about 35-40 metres. Wow, what a devastating set.
If our forward pack, especially Woods, make a bigger effort to get back for kick return sets I imagine we would see a correlation in results as we start to win the field position battle. From watching the game last night I would guess Roosters average set was 60 metres and ours was 40 or under.
Now, if our back three were stronger on the hit up, our forwards wouldn’t have to work so far back to get a hit up in, and that is another issue as Tedesco, Richards and Naqaima generally get turned around on kick returns whereas Tupou and Tuivasa-Scheck in particular have a way of eating metres up fast and then landing on their bellies.
The real difference though in my opinion is on tackle 2 and tackle 3, when the wingers come in and take useless hit ups, get turned around and planted on their backsides. The Roosters, and other teams this year, are exploiting us on tackle 2 and 3 by spreading it wide and taking advantage of our sliding defence. Few clean line breaks are conceded but by pushing us backwards on a diagonal line they are making 20-30 metres on the play. The Roosters did this multiple times last night with Jennings and Ferguson.
Now, if I was Taylor I would work hard on this very small part of the game. Put KPIs on the props in particular (Lovett is as ineffective as a winger in this situation) getting back onside after a downfield kick and getting at least 2 middle player hit ups on a kick return set, PLUS working on spreading it in our half, once per set, for the sole intention of taking metres off the sliding line.
This is the tricky part. When our players DO try things in our own half, they often create enough space to make them feel like they can score. Simona or Naqiama gets down the sideline on the 3rd or 4th and instead of chalking it up as a win they will put in a crappy infield kick that we score off about 1/15 times. Rarely we get a repeat set, most of the time the opposition just falls on it and then march up into our half easy as pie.
If the sole intention of the play is to get down the other end of the field, we wouldn’t see dropped ball off forced passes, we wouldn’t see crappy infield grubbers go nowhere, we’d hold the ball longer and that is the secret to winning footy matches. Time in possession.
If we can get an extra 30 seconds per set of time in possession and an extra 7-10 metres per set we will win a lot more matches.
Truth be told I think we are among the most effective teams in the NRL at scoring tries when we are deep on the attack, the problem is we never get there.