Granville delivering from dummy half
He’s the player emerging from the shadows of the forward pack with a quick burst of speed and a mop of hair that poses a few questions of its own.
Cowboys hooker Jake Granville earned high praise from teammates this week for his efforts on both sides of the ball during the Cowboys’ season-defining two-week stretch which saw them re-join the ranks of title contenders.
Granville was a marvel in the second half of their Round 4 match against the Storm, with key late-game runs paving the way for Johnathan Thurston to ice the game.
Against the Panthers he was at his defensive best with halting hits on ball-runners twice his size and more key dummy-half scoots leading his forwards onto the footy.
Granville is the fastest at the club over 40 metres and offers a dimension in attack that has not been seen in a Cowboys jersey since club legend Aaron Payne departed in 2012.
It has taken just two games but prop Ben Hannant has already noted the improvements in his pack led by Granville.
“Jake has been outstanding (with) his speed out of dummy half,” Hannant said.
“(It is important) to be able to have that off quick play-the-ball off big Jase (Taumalolo) or James (Tamou) or 'Thumper' (Matt Scott).
“I think we’re still learning the style of footy he plays, and we need to get up flatter and be ready to go when he takes off because when he takes off you get left behind.”
Standing at just 172 centimetres Granville is also proving quite the roadblock defensively, sticking tackles at a rate of over 95% this season.
There were doubts about Granville’s increased workload after taking the reins from Rory Kostjasyn in Round 4, having laid only 14 tackles per game for the Broncos last season.
But those concerns have been quickly dismissed after strong showings up the middle against the Storm and Panthers over the past two weeks – missing just one tackle from 44.
“He can whack blokes, too,” Hannant said of the 26-year-old who weighs in at a surprising 87 kilograms.
“I think his defence has been probably the best out of anyone in our club this year so it’s funny when a hooker is inspiring everyone to put on bigger shots, it’s great to see.”
Cowboys Holden Cup head coach and former Wests Tigers prop Todd Payten has also been a big advocate of Granville’s playing style, which makes the task a lot easier for fellow front-rowers.
Payten, who played alongside Robbie Farah for Wests Tigers in the 2005 grand final against North Queensland, knows first-hand the impact a good hooker makes on his forward pack.
“I think it is integral to have a good dummy half,” Payten said.
“If you have someone creative and smart around the ruck you’ll exploit those quick play-the-balls and it certainly makes your side stronger to have multiple points of attack.
“No side that goes on to win the comp doesn’t have a threat out of dummy half.”
Control of the ruck will prove vital as Granville goes head-to-head with one of the game’s best in Issac Luke at ANZ Stadium on Monday night.