Time to stop pigeon-holing players: Brown
Former Dragons coach Nathan Brown has urged modern-day mentors to release the shackles in the wake of Chris Sandow's criticism of the structures being employed by Eels coach Brad Arthur.
While Brown defended the need for every NRL coach – including Arthur and Warriors coach Andrew McFadden – to employ some form of 'structure' in order to be successful, he outlines in this week's issue of Big League how the attacking instincts of some players are being coached out of the game.
In the modern game most teams set up on the left and right sides with a half, a back-rower and a centre and Brown believes it is the rigidness with which many teams stick to this structure that is impeding a more flamboyant style of football.
"One reason we see so much structured football today is because young players, still in their teens, are put on sides of the field and not allowed to express themselves or use their natural talents," Brown says in the Round 15 issue of Big League.
"A young halfback being put on the left-hand side of the field and told to stay there and not play on the ball is not allowing him to play instinctive football. It doesn't allow him to do two or three plays in a row which is how all our great halves had played the game.
"The same could be said of edge back-rowers who are taught to run certain lines every time. It stops them from reacting to what plays out in front of them and it is ultimately impacting the way the game is played at a senior level.
"A good example of this is if you watch Penrith's back-rowers as opposed to the Broncos'. Most of Penrith's edge back-rowers would be at home playing at either five-eighth or hooker, where if you look at Matt Gillett or Alex Glenn, they would be just as comfortable playing in the centres. Hence, those two sides use their back-rowers in different ways at different stages."
While Brown defended Sandow's place in the NRL as he appears headed out of Parramatta at the end of the 2015 season, he rubbished the notion that teams can be successful without employing a structure of some form.
"Talk of unstructured football always amuses me because I wonder what people mean by that term," says Brown, an assistant coach with the Blues on Wednesday night. "Do they want players playing what they see, unloading the ball? Or do they want people just running onto the field doing whatever they feel free to do? It's a loose term.
"I heard some commentators last weekend remark on the fact that Andrew McFadden has the Warriors playing with too much structure this season, and this is cruelling them.
"A lot of exciting players from New Zealand and the Pacific Islands are generalised as preferring an ad-lib style of football, but this isn't the case. The reality is every team and every player needs some form of structure.
"I'm not disagreeing with the Warriors style of football, but I believe it's impossible for critics to make a judgement on a team's structures unless you're on the inside and understand the club and all of its players."
The Round 15 issue of Big League is on sale now from newsagents and at the ground. Digital version available at Zinio.