You won’t see Farah force it for the Tigers
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September 3, 2010
Benji Marshall provides the flamboyant passes but Robbie Farah is the man who controls the Tigers.
Benji Marshall was scintillating last weekend. He made breaks, threw flick passes and scored three tries along the way. He is no doubt the key to the Wests Tigers and their premiership aspirations. Or so you might think.
I sat down this week to study Marshall and the Tigers when something else stood out like a dog’s proverbials … Robbie Farah! A detailed look at the Tigers’ performance last week shows that while Marshall was at his brilliant best, it was the Tigers captain, Farah, who controlled this game and controls this team.
The Tigers are known as the competition’s version of the Harlem Globetrotters due to the way they throw the ball around. But it was Farah, displaying quite the opposite traits that stood out to me. He is controlled and composed, subtle and scheming. If there is one thing this team needs it is a rock for the other players to depend on, a calming constant in the middle of the field amid the chaos of the ball being flung from one edge to the other and back again. Last Sunday, Farah provided all this in spades. He kept things simple and steady. He even used the mere threat of more ball movement and Marshall’s presence to both set up and score tries against a Melbourne team that still has the second-best defensive record in the NRL.
Picture one perfectly illustrates the use of Marshall’s presence and the simple subtlety of Farah’s play. Marshall is in position to receive the ball from Farah around the back of Andrew Fifita, who has two Storm defenders, Jeff Lima and Billy Slater, directly opposite him. Slater has moved to this position as he is concerned about Marshall receiving the ball with numerous runners on his outside. Farah has taken a couple of steps forward with the ball to give him a chance to read the Storm’s defensive movements. He knows they are worried about Marshall, and senses Lima and Slater starting to drift out to cover the Tigers No.6. This opens half a hole for Fifita, which is all he needs from such close range. Farah passes short, and the big No.14 crashes over for the easiest of tries.
Picture two again shows Farah using Marshall’s presence to initiate the team’s third try with a great show of composure and skill. This was the last tackle for the Tigers, which had prompted Storm winger, Justin O’Neill, to drop back in anticipation of a kick. Taking advantage of this, Farah ran from dummy-half, and deliberately committed the Storm’s fourth-in defender. With Marshall attracting the attention of two defenders, Farah threw a 13 metre cut-out pass to Blake Ayshford in space. Ayshford drew in O’Neill, and passed to Tigers winger Beau Ryan, out of picture, who was in the clear. Ryan then grubber-kicked for Marshall to score.
Picture three is Farah at his scheming best. The Tigers had been throwing the ball around wildly in the plays leading to this, and now have eight players lined out to Farah’s left ready to continue the razzle dazzle. He has picked up the ball that was played to him less than a metre out from the try line with Tigers No.7, Robert Lui, ready to play. But although his original plan was to pass Lui the ball, Farah has now seen Brett White’s straight legs, which inspire him to charge like a red rag does to a bull. From this start position, White is no chance of stopping the crouching Tiger from diving over for a try, and Farah knew it as he scored the Tigers’ fourth try himself. Believe it or not Farah wasn’t finished there. He put the game beyond doubt with a dummy and run of over 50m before sending Marshall in for his third try of the day.
Tonight on the Gold Coast, the Tigers take on the Titans in a full dress rehearsal of finals footy. ‘‘Scott Prince versus Benji Marshall’’ the headlines read, and won’t it be one almighty match-up! But, you Tigers and footy fans alike, when the razzle dazzle starts and you’re blown away by rugby league brilliance, be sure to keep your eye on the precision, patience and at times pure genius of the man providing the platform in the middle wearing jersey No.9