Brennan: James must be more dominant
Gold Coast coach Garth Brennan has called on skipper Ryan James to be more consistent and take pressure off the team's standout forwards Jai Arrow and Jarrod Wallace.
Just when James has been mentioned as a genuine contender to make his Holden State of Origin debut in Brad Fittler's Blues squad which is tipped to have a major overhaul, Brennan has surprisingly laid down the challenge to the 26-year-old.
James, who has struggled with a foot injury for the past two games, has better than average game stats of 69 minutes on the field, 11.6 hit-ups, 109 running metres and 37 tackles. His defensive workload and effectiveness have been first class.
However, he is perhaps paying the penalty for the comparison to Arrow, who has been the competition benchmark for middle forwards. Arrow has on average made 159 metres from his 53 (average) minutes, 15.8 hit-ups, 23 tackle breaks (compared to James' and Wallace's 10), 12 offloads and 33 tackles.
Wallace is middle ground with 12.3 hit-ups, 53 minutes, 127 metres and 27 tackles.
When asked if James' carries and metres may "leave a bit to be desired", Brennan's response was simple.
"You are probably correct on that,'' he said.
"Ryan does have to step up and be a better forward leader.
"He did it for a few weeks, but consistency is probably the key for Ryan. If you look at Jarrod Wallace and Jai Arrow, they're consistent every week.
"That's where Ryan needs to take a bit of responsibility; he's the captain and our leader. It's something I'm sure Ryan needs to be conscious of, and work on, and I'm sure he will.
"It's consistency, he has played well in patches this year but he hasn't put in a good 80 minutes in back to back weeks."
James has curbed his aggression and conceding of penalties since being named skipper in 2017.
Yet he continues to have one of the biggest work rates of any NRL prop and is outstanding in making crucial tackles, especially near the goal line.
However, Brennan wants more punch in attack from his big man who equalled the all-time competition record for tries by a prop with 12 in 2016.
Brennan aimed to use him as a left edge runner in tandem with five-eighth Kane Elgey but he has spent more time in the middle, combining with Arrow and Wallace to provide one of the most reliable and resilient up-front combinations, averaging nearly 57 minutes of game time between them.
This takes pressure off the Telstra Premiership's least experienced middle rotation from the bench in the quickly-improving Max King, Keegan Hipgrave and Morgan Boyle, who is out indefinitely from this weekend with a shoulder injury.