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Grandstanding: Coaches changing the game

Daniel Anderson NRL.com Thu, Mar 22, 2012 - 11:00 AM

Michael Maguire pulled off a masterstroke by moving Greg Inglis to fullback, according to NRL.com expert Daniel Anderson. Copyright: NRL Photos

ABC Grandstandexpert and former NRL coach Daniel Anderson will dissect all the rugby league issuesthat matter on NRL.com this season.

We read a lot about the influence of coaches, especially in the good times when the team is performing well and the results positive.

Conversely, when times are tough, coaches will wear the brunt of the criticism.

If the criticism is felt to be unjust or unfair, players will defend their coach with quotes such as "he doesn't make the tackles" or "once we cross the white line, we are the ones that determine the outcome".

All of these are partially true. Coaches do deserve recognition when the going is good but it is the players making the tackles and scoring the tries. Conversely, coaches do deserve criticism for bad performances and results but players must shoulder some responsibility too.

Let's look at some first-class coaching decisions of round 3.

Michael Maguire – South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Faced with the ignominy of a 0-3 start to the year, 'Madge' decided that his star marquee player, Greg Inglis (who plays left centre), should change positions and get more touches. Moved to fullback, GI had 28 touches, 19 carries for 193m, five tackle-breaks, one offload, two line-breaks and a try.

Stats do not always do players justice even though there is plenty to absorb. When GI is near the ball, anticipation of his involvement causes anxiety in the defending team as eyes are fixed on him, thereby creating space for Adam Reynolds or John Sutton.

If he actually carries the ball then you need 2-3 players to control a 6'5", 105kg fullback.

Ask Lachlan Coote how difficult it is to stop Greg Inglis one on one. 'Madge' also changed the position of Sam Burgess from a middle player to an 'edge' player who plays wide, near the 20m lines down the field.

Add Isaac Luke into the starting side instead of the bench and these three decisions transformed a good Rabbitohs team into a lethal attacking unit. Three decisions by the coach influenced the confidence and conviction of the team.

Steve Price – St George Illawarra Dragons

Steve Price is in his first year as an NRL coach following in the footsteps of arguably the best coach of all time, Wayne Bennett.

Pricey has inherited a team that has been in the playoffs three consecutive years and won a premiership in 2010.

The Dragons after two weeks were showing the signs of an established team that had run their race and were destined to assume the monikers 'inconsistent' or 'erratic'.

After a great team win in round 1 on the road, they suffered an embarrassing defeat against a rival in round 2.

Facing the Wests Tigers, Pricey moved NSW & Australian winger Brett Morris to fullback. I enjoy seeing a fullback return the ball from a kick back into the teeth of the kick-chase team as quick as they can.

Normally a six-man kick-chase team has the seconds to look over their shoulders to organise a straight line, add a few fresh chasers to make it a nine-man line and corral the fullback to any position they want to make the three-man tackle.

Brett Morris terrified the kick-chase team - especially the big men in the middle of the field - into slowing and waiting for troops to arrive and assist so as to not to get isolated in a tackle situation.

Add tremendous strength to his repertoire and the Dragons forwards rarely had to run more than 10m to get back behind the ball because of his powerful kick returns.

In addition, Steve Price changed Kyle Stanley from fullback to centre (and he excelled in both attack but more so defence) and introduced a new debutant for the club in Daniel Vidot onto the wing.

Once again, a coach made three moves/decisions that altered the confidence and conviction of his team.

When you get it right, it's pretty nice to be a coach.

You can follow Daniel Anderson on Twitter, Facebook and on ABC Grandstand.