Defence wins titles.
It’s a truism applicable to all team sports, not just the NRL.
Nonetheless, the 2019 NRL Grand Final epitomised the importance of defence as a 12 man Roosters team held out the Raiders for a critical period in the second half. Indeed, the Raiders themselves came close to winning the title on the back of a vastly improved defensive resolve.
As for the Eels, pundits will likely point to a number of blowout losses in 2019 and declare that Parra cannot claim a Premiership with defence like that. It is, without question, an aspect for the Eels to improve.
This morning’s field session put the spotlight firmly on attacking without the football. That’s really what defence is – attacking the team in possession.
Here’s how the morning unfolded:
It seemed to be an extended warm up period this morning – at least 30 minutes. Some of this included running mechanics – and it did lead into sprint technique. But given that the players were about to undertake almost three hours of field work, a thorough period of warm ups and stretches was obviously beneficial.
Repeated sets of 30 to 40 metre runs at half pace were a feature of today’s conditioning. The players were expected to keep a straight line. This wasn’t just about individual conditioning, it was getting them to work collaboratively.
Between each set, the players ran over to a designated area to practise play the ball technique.
This was smart stuff. We see some of the simplest errors in play the balls when players are fatigued. So if you’re going to work on such a fundamental skill, do it under fatigue.
When the Malcolms were introduced towards the back half of the session, they too were followed by play the ball drills.
The final set of running was a contest, and the players to catch the eye today were Haze Dunster and Jaeman Salmon. Both players pushed out to the front and led the group home.
At this early stage, Haze is ticking plenty of boxes. Last season at Wenty didn’t end how he would have wanted – he saw minimal game time, coming off the bench as a winger. He might only play Canterbury Cup again this year, but he’s certainly fronted up with an excellent attitude and it’s what you want to see from a young player who’s been given a full time contract.
Apart from play the ball technique, the emphasis fell squarely on defence.
The work began with education about our defensive system and structures – practised via left side and right side drills. The attack always appeared to be given a numbers advantage, but the mix of lines run meant that the drill was not just how to defend an overlap.
Though the contact was only meant to be a grab, the sound of impact was quite audible. At one point, Dave Hollis took Andrew Davey down with a significant collision around the chest.
As the morning unfolded, the coaching shifted to individual technique. Bump pads were introduced, with players expected to drive in with a solid hit and then stick with the player in the tackle. The methodology was also changed up to ensure that the defenders could use each shoulder equally well.
The highlight was definitely provided by Ray Stone who absolutely levelled someone – the victim remaining unidentified.
The session concluded with on the ground contact/wrestle technique. Watching this, there’s an art in gaining a dominant position in the tackle in a quick period of time. This ensures that the tackler/tacklers get to their feet first, but don’t concede a penalty.
The Final Word
The move to Kellyville is not too far away and the facility is taking shape. I don’t have a move in date as yet, but the modular buildings and turf can be seen in these photos.
Though this is only stage 1, and there’s still work to be done, the temporary structure will immediately provide improved facilities for the players and staff, as well housing both Eels management and the football department at the same venue.
When complete, the permanent structure will be a superb community facility as well as providing a match day venue for lower grades and junior representative teams.