April 23, 2021

If the game is now as fast as it has ever been – why are teams still keeping their playmakers on opposite sides of the field?

3 min read

BY CURTIS WOODWARD

@woodward_curtis

The National Rugby League has never been faster with new rules put in place to keep the ball in-play longer and tire out defensive units. All well and good.

If that’s the case then why are teams still playing a half on each side of the field?

On Thursday night at Brookvale Oval, the clash between Manly-Warringah and the Penrith Panthers was a mismatch in every way.

But it was obvious, for both teams, that they were keeping their best players to one side of the field.

For the Panthers, a heavyweight and a contender for the premiership, Nathan Cleary ran the right side while Jahrome Luai roamed on the left.

You could have easily forgotten in the first-half that the Sea Eagles had Kiwi International and premiership-winner Kieran Foran out on their left edge. Almost all the ball went to Daly Cherry-Evans on the other side of Brookvale.

Which makes you wonder.

If Cherry-Evans is going to be the dominant ballplayer, why leave him on one side of the field in attack?

It makes it quite easy for opponents to minimise their attack.

If Manly are travelling that badly and all the ball is going to DCE on the right anyway – why not play him across both sides with the ball?

And if the game is so fast and players are tiring across the paddock – why wouldn’t the Panthers play Cleary and Luai together and let them roam?

You can be structured and still cause chaos.

These are professional rugby league players after all and the best brains in the game.

The creators.

Video sessions during the week already go for hours.

Imagine the job old mate would have to do to put the clips together for defensive outfits if they had to do homework on both halfbacks instead of just the one sitting on their side of the field all night?

While Cleary is arguably the best halfback in the competition, the Panthers are far more exciting to watch when Luai is ducking and weaving on the left and looking for Viliame Kikau.

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Cleary doesn’t need his own side of the field.

He can easily control the team’s tempo on the back of what Luai does or doesn’t do in a set of six.

The modern NRL player does nothing but think, eat and sleep rugby league.

Are we saying our halfbacks can’t run a team without splitting them and banning them from the other half of the ground?

Manly showed a little bit of promise before half-time on Thursday but the Panthers looked after them quite comfortably because all Manly’s play went one way. When they did try to come back the other way, they were already so far tucked into the right pocket, they could only get as far back as a tip-on play from Jake Trbojevic.

The Sea Eagles might as well play another prop in the number 6 jersey and put Foran at dummy half.

Why is he even out there?

@woodward_curtis

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