Kickers pressured by new dead zone
Gold Coast Titans five-eighth Aidan Sezer admits that the prospect of handing the opposition an extra tackle will weigh heavily on attacking kicks in 2014 under new rules introduced by the NRL.
In a move designed to eliminate the practice of the fullbacks being taken out of play by kicks deliberately kicked dead in-goal, the first tackle from all 20-metre restarts will be considered a 'zero tackle'.
That means that all kicks that roll dead in-goal – including grubbers and bombs – will gift the defending team seven tackles from their next set, making the precision of the modern kickers even more critical for their team.
"It definitely doesn't reward the kickers," said Sezer, who trailed only Jarrod Mullen, Luke Walsh and Cooper Cronk for total kick metres last season with 8,714 metres from 264 kicks in general play.
"If you kick it dead they get a zero tackle which is ultimately seven tackles so we've just got to put a bit more of an emphasis on that and hopefully try not to kick it dead.
"Defending team, it rewards them in a way because if they put good kick-pressure on and you kick it dead they get an extra tackle up their belt.
"It does put a bit of extra emphasis [on kickers], especially if you kick it dead. You get a zero tackle from the 20m restart which ultimately puts a team in an attacking kick so I guess we've got to do a bit more work on that.
"We've got good leapers here with the likes of Kevvie Gordon and David Mead and we feel that if we put it on the spot for them we've got an 80 per cent chance of getting a try out of it."
The other change for the kickers in 2014 relates to the restart of play from a successful 40/20 kick. Rather than being rewarded with the feed into the scrum, the team that kicks a 40/20 will receive a tap restart 20m in from where the ball finds touch.
It opens the way for a faster transition into attacking opportunities and Sezer knows that any success he and halves partner Albert Kelly have with their long kicking games will be of great benefit to the team.
"With the quality of the fullbacks these days, 40/20s are hard as they are but if we can get a couple, me and Albie, even 'Zilly' (William Zillman) and the hookers, I dare say the boys will be smiling and appreciate it," said Sezer, who kicked two 40/20s in 2013, both against the Warriors in Round 8.
There was a noticeable lift in intensity at Thursday's session with the final beep test of the pre-season followed by an opposed session that may have left some bumps and bruises.
Fullback William Zillman – the beep test champion with a final score of 13.10 – was crashed to the turf by a crunching, albeit accidental, shoulder charge by Brad Takairangi and was left reeling again moments later when bodies collided from a mis-timed play.
The Titans play their first trial against the Warriors on Sunday, February 9 and Sezer said that although he is unsure of whether he'll play that game, there is plenty of competition for spots.
"There are a lot of smiles around because the tough stuff is done seeing as though we play next week and then progress into the Nines the week after," the 22-year-old said.
"Obviously game intensity is different to training and we're trying to simulate that as much as we can. You can see the buzz around training, the boys know the games are only a couple of weeks away and everyone is pushing for spots and trying to impress the coaching staff.
"Hopefully I can get a run in the Nines, I think that would be a good spectacle and be a good experience. With the sort of side and squad that we have it will suit our game to a tee."