Video analysis vital for rising stars
We often hear of training sessions involving video and analysis on the opposition, but what exactly are the players in the NRL looking out for when coming up against next week's opposition?
Canterbury Bulldogs outside back Kerrod Holland is only into the second year of his first-grade career after bursting onto the scene by kicking a match-wining conversion against Penrith in Round 2 of last season.
Speaking to NRL.com in the lead-up to Thursday night's clash with the Cowboys, he shed some light into the process after marking up against Raiders pair Jarrod Croker and Nick Cotric in Round 9 and what his week involves in preparing for a game off-field.
"I'll go and do video with our backs coach Dave Penna on whoever I'm marking up against for the week and their individual plays to work out the tendencies and how they work with their inside men," Holland told NRL.com.
"We mainly look at which hand the opposite player likes to hold the ball in and if they're likely to pass it, based on their career or form. When it comes to the game it makes the decision-making process a tad clearer.
"It is so hard to think of those things in the heat of the moment so if they're a bit pre-programmed then it makes my job that little bit easier. In this competition every bit of information counts."
"If you don't look into those tendencies [of opposition players], you get to look silly on national television..."
Video sessions and education on the opposition have become more of a focus in the last decade, particularly with advancements in technology.
While players talking to the media often come up with the "we're focusing on ourselves" cliché, all teams in the NRL Telstra Premiership are looking for the edge over their opponents.
It is no secret why some players have struggled after successful debut seasons with other teams studying up and working out their weaknesses over the course of an off-season.
"I suppose it's just up to the individual on how far they look at a player. When I first came into grade after playing park footy I never used to," Holland admitted.
"I wasn't accustomed or exposed to any sort of video but now when you're trying to cement a spot in the top grade it's almost part and parcel of the game.
"And if you don't look into those tendencies, you get to look silly on national television which is something you really don't want to do – particularly when you're up against great players."
Opposition need not focus too much on Holland's shoulder injury that forced the Singleton junior to miss a month of football earlier this year before he returned to the paddock in the Bulldogs' Good Friday clash with the Rabbitohs.
The 24-year-old said he knew what Cowboys halfback Johnathan Thurston was dealing with when Thurston was injured in the Kangaroos' 18-point win against the Kiwis on Friday night.
The North Queensland superstar has been sidelined indefinitely with a small tear in his shoulder joint and will miss the match against Holland's Bulldogs on Thursday night.
"My shoulder is getting strong now, it was a bit touch-and-go there for a while but with a few more games under the belt now I've got a bit more confidence so it's back to 100 percent which is good," Holland said.
"With an AC joint injury… while you can play with them, it depends how severe it is.
"The Cowboys have been such a dominant force in the competition with or without Johnathan Thurston.
"He's obviously a loss and it will help us, but we also want to test ourselves against the best players and teams too."
Des Hasler's side have lost a key man of their own in five-eighth Josh Reynolds but Holland was confident halves replacement Matt Frawley would step into the role with ease.
"I know Grub (Reynolds) is disappointed [to be injured] with his time at the club coming to an end. He wants to play every game possible and I know he'll do everything he can to get back quickly," Holland said.
"Matt Frawley is a great [back-up] to have at the club and he'll have no trouble stepping straight in.
"We spoke about it at half-time against the Raiders… how we lost a couple of boys in Josh and James [Graham] who are massive for our team, that it was important we dug deep and I thought we did that.
"To come out and complete at the rate we did to beat Canberra was a good effort from the boys and after the break we've all had, it's important we continue to work hard for each other."