The #1 take-away for me from the Bulldogs game is not the injuries or goal kicking, but the lack of strike power and lack of options for the halves when in attack.
Forwards platform against Bulldogs was good, so it represented a very reasonable opportunity for the attack to flow. We had a lot of football on the Dogs’ line, we completed sets well enough and the short and high tactical kicking was generally good, so we can’t complain about the lack of sets or kicks going dead.
What has struck me about the Tigers so much in the last 2-3 seasons are the lack of options and general lack of urgency we show in attack. We have a very predictable attack plan and we rarely score what I would consider “beautiful” tries, that showcase fluidity, pass selection and nice hole running. The Penrith match was probably the exception, where for about 30 minutes we attacked with terrific force and defensive line penetration.
Then I watched the Raiders go around yesterday and it was totally different.
Generally speaking, Tigers lack strike players, which we can’t impact in the final run. We just don’t have tackle-busting powerhouse speed-machines. But the Raiders side from yesterday isn’t exactly chock full of these players either. Cotric is very capable and Bateman has been a revelation; CNK runs hard all game. The others are good without being great - the young Simonsen, wiley Rapana, rocks/diamonds Wighton, reliable Croker, up/down Sezer.
What I really picked up on, and the point I wanted to make here, is if you ignore the roster for a moment and just look at HOW they play, there is so much that I like about the Raiders attack that I just don’t see in the Tigers.
Here are three early Tigers efforts, vs 1 Raiders play, same direction and roughly same field position.
My notes for Tigers:
- Plays #1 and #2 at least 1 of the halves runs sideways.
- All 3 plays generally lacking inside options
- Fullback is out back and not really a threat to take the pass
- Nobody properly engages the line
- ET’s service in all 3 plays is ok
- Hardly anyone sprinting
- Biggest take-away - look at the Bulldogs line in each case and how comfortable they are - straight, on toes, not committed and not being dragged out of play by any options. They don’t consider the fullback a threat out back, they easily pick up the intended runner and they aren’t overly fussed about containing the halves.
The Raiders slide:
- Aggressive runs left and right of the ball
- fullback pushing right up into the play
- backrow option inside and out
- they don’t come from the back fence but they do wind up quickly
- every player with hands out ready for a pass
- the Roosters aren’t happy to simply contain, they push up and commit numbers to the half
Obviously these aren’t the only plays each team will run and I did not specifically l look for “bad” plays vs “good” plays. The Raiders one I made a mental note to look at again later, and they didn’t even score off it.
Tigers attack is just so pedestrian by comparison. We don’t have world-beaters, but surely if we straightened up more, got to top speed faster and pushed forward harder in attack then we’d have more threat. I am regularly reminded of the 2010-2011 Tigers sides, specifically how well we pushed forward in attack and how there were always options. Benji Marshall was part of both sides, so it can’t just be the style of the halves.
Raiders have a better side than us, but I frankly don’t think it’s a great side. But they have so much purpose in what they do, all the players pushing forward. CNK is not having a breakout year because he’s a massive unit and speed machine, he’s having a breakout year because he pushes forward in every play and the opposition have learned to worry about where he is going to pop up, which gradually breaks down their defensive structures against the other attackers. Whitehead pushes up, chases kicks, runs at holes. Bateman is so busy with offloads and darting runs.
It’s just a busy, powerful team and I wish we were more like them. And I’m not specifically talking about big-name players, I am talking about all players increasing their intensity, pushing up on every play, running straight and hard, not standing still half the time.