Hooking rotations

BY DAN

“It worked.”

Ricky Stuart was as adamant as he was stern in response to a reporters question about whether starting Matt Frawley at hooker had been a worthy decision.

His case was simple. It allowed Tom Starling to come on later; playing against tired defenders, with more space to move. That Canberra was in the hole by the time that move was made was immaterial. The benefit was demonstrated in Starling’s performance, and the Raiders eventual victory. It was a curious justification. Doing well once you remove a player isn’t the the strongest argument for their inclusion.

To be fair Frawley delivered as promised. I criticised his service but through when the Raiders weren’t a shambles through the first 15 or so minutes. Though he did have a solitary run where he took 20 metres running to the right edge, he generally didn’t threaten the markers with the run like Starling did later or manipulate them like Hodgson and would have. That can have an impact in itself, in that it allows the defence a more predictable read as to who will get the ball. However, it didn’t hold back the Canberra attack, mostly because Joey Taps and Big Papa wouldn’t let it. Instead the issues were the hands of others. If Brad Schneider had seen Charnze on his inside before Phillip Sami could find him or if Jordy had caught that offload from Joe Tapine we might have spoken about the first half differently.

As a defender he was targeted – specifically by Mo Fotouaika – but outside of one notable occasion where the Titan prop pancaked him, he did an adequate job. He only missed two tackles, neither of which were important (i.e they were typical hooker misses; jumping out to slow down a big man). His only kick was no bueno, but small samples sizes and all that. He’ll probably do better.

So Sticky may have been right in a sense. He picked Frawley to do a role, and that was role was performed as requested. If the plan is to hold the fort for 20-30 minutes each game before starting to push the game this seems to be a way to get there. There’s also a bonus of having cover for the halves and outside backs (by way of Frawley coming on in the halves and Schneider or Jack shifting).

This is a more complex debate than I had imagined in the post-game review. The other option, Adrian Trevilyan, is in my view is good enough to play first grade now. While he’s only played twenty minutes of top line footy he offers more at nine than Frawley did on the weekend. He has width to his passing game, and an ability to manipulate markers around the ruck that is more akin to what Josh Hodgson would have offered this attack. The adopted offensive structure needs width to shift points of attack, utilise talented edge runners and generally operate in a bit of space. A hooker that can facilitate that as well as solid service to the middle men would be beneficial. Tom Starling is a lot of exciting things, but his long passing is still a work in progress. Trevilyan is ahead of him there, and Frawley for that matter.

Of course, Stuart noted Frawley’s presence is designed specifically to protect Trevilyan from the travails of first grade before he’s ready. Similar to his positioning of Xavier Savage behind the more workmanlike Seb Kris, Stuart noted he wanted to give Trevilyan more time to develop in shield cricket reserve grade. His case was 80 minutes is better than 20, and time to refine his game away from the bright lights would only help the young man. I would add that it also ensures Trevilyan has suitable match fitness should Starling get injured (*crosses fingers, knocks on wood, throws Starling sized amount of salt over shoulder*). And yes, it isn’t consistent with how Semi Valemei is treated, but look, I’m not Stuart. He says Semi is ready. Trevilyan and Savage are not. I can see the case with Semi and Savage. Stuart knows more than me. Perhaps I should trust he’s right about Trevilyan too.

This does undermine our opening round theory that Stuart may have moved on from his fascination with hard-working veterans in order to let youth flourish. Frawley’s selection (along with Kris’) suggest the old dog still loves old tricks. Schneider was ready (according to Stuart), Schiller was a necessity. Where possible the youth must be protected. For now.

(Only god knows with covid).

If Frawley is going to carry this opening shift Stuart is accepting a more limited set of options and a lower ceiling of performance. That’s his prerogative. The certainty of Frawley may be more necessary in his view than the potential of Trevilyan for winning games right now.

But apart from having a more limited attacking approach there are other downsides. Wasting the first rotation of Josh Papalii and Joe Tapine in a holding pattern before Tom Starling comes on is an inefficient use of their time. It also mean the Raiders are carrying a player in the 17 that is only meant to play 20 minutes a night. It’s been a consistent part of Stuart’s rotations in recent years – Dunamis Lui played a similar “opener” role during his time with the Milk – but surely a more even spread of minutes through the bench players is a better use of their time.

This plan may have worked this weekend. I’m not unconvinced by Stuart’s insistence. But harder tests await. Manly and Melbourne in the next weeks will test the ability of the Raiders to shorten the game to 60 minutes. Will Frawley succeed against outfits of higher quality than the Titans?

If Stuart’s response is anything to go by, yes.

I wrote this on my phone because my computer is a jerk so go like our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or share this on social media. Don’t hesitate to send feedback (dan@sportress.org) or comment below.

3 comments

  1. […] “Adrian Trevilyan is in my view is good enough to play first grade now. While he’s only played twenty minutes of top line footy he offers more at nine than Frawley did on the weekend. He has width to his passing game, and an ability to manipulate markers around the ruck that is more akin to what Josh Hodgson would have offered this attack” – Dan, The Sportress […]

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  2. […] “Adrian Trevilyan is in my view is good enough to play first grade now. While he’s only played twenty minutes of top line footy he offers more at nine than Frawley did on the weekend. He has width to his passing game, and an ability to manipulate markers around the ruck that is more akin to what Josh Hodgson would have offered this attack” – Dan, The Sportress […]

    Like

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