So, we are 10 weeks into the 2013 Telstra Premiership and never has it been more evident to me that to be a success in this competition you need to have a settled halves combination.
Is it mere coincidence that the top four teams have all used the same halves pairing in each of their 10 games to date? Does it come as a shock that the most sustained period of success at South Sydney in 40 years has coincided with Adam Reynolds and John Sutton playing a combined 37 consecutive games together the past two seasons? Consider this: Since the start of the NRL in 1998 only two of 29 players – Chris Sandow and Joe Williams – have played more games at halfback for the Rabbitohs than Reynolds, and he only made his debut a little over a year ago!
Of course, the Warriors prove that having the same halves pairing for 10 weeks in succession is no guarantee of success but if the hooking of Shaun Johnson last Saturday is any indication, perhaps coach Matt Elliott is on the verge of splitting up the partnership.
A month ago I asked Knights coach Wayne Bennett whether he would continue substituting starting halfback Kurt Gidley with Tyrone Roberts and whether he thought that affected the cohesion of his team. He said it didn’t but judging by how the Knights performed with Mullen in 6, Roberts in 7 and Gidley in 9 last Sunday, that may be the combination he settles on.
I accidentally caused North Queensland coach Neil Henry some agitation two weeks ago in the ‘presser’ when I asked him who his preferred option was to partner Johnathan Thurston. I was trying to give Henry the opportunity to explain that with two halfbacks – Michael Morgan and Robert Lui – on the injured list at the time, the Cowboys were being hampered by having to use three different halfbacks in the opening eight weeks. I don’t know who is best to partner ‘JT’ but it may be time for Henry to pick a halfback and stick with him.
And what about the poor Wests Tigers? They have used five different halfbacks and three different five-eighths, so it is little surprise to me they find themselves rooted to the bottom of the ladder.
All teams incur injury problems but those without first-choice halves for a period really struggle to keep pace.
It’s my great pleasure to announce that from next week Big League will count down the 100 greatest moments in rugby league from the past 50 years.
Some of the most respected names in rugby league have joined our panel to produce a definitive list that will surely generate much discussion and debate.
League historian David Middleton will rekindle memories of the past five decades and it will all culminate with the countdown of the top 25 moments in Round 15 which will be full of surprises.
I’m really proud of the list we have produced and will be excited to hear your thoughts on the ones we got right, and the ones that are conspicuous in their absence.