1: The Walker Brothers:
These guys changed how we play the game in 2015. They turned traditional play on its head and made the former holy grail of success, the completion rate, a non-entity.
For them, it is time in possession, you get this by reducing the time your opponent has the ball in hand but not wrestling, short kicks (at every dead ball opportunity) and no longer pounding forward into forward for the first few tackles in a set. Give it to them, make them play at a rate they are not wanting to, and then take it off them as quickly as possible.
You have your ball runners continue to hold the ball and move it sideways if there is no opportunity in front of them. You have the opponents make a quick play the ball, even when they are not ready for it by rolling off and having your players set up the defensive line as the tackle is made.
It is light and it is fast, and in 2015 it worked.
The two questions are, can it work against them and can teams counter it. Well, the answer is still unknown, but they were the victors in the ISC for 2015 but will it be as valuable know it is known. Can it be countered, yes, set your runners early in the play the ball so you can continue to roll and exploit the rest of the line getting onside and drawing either breaks in the line or heaps of off-side penalties as the big guys get tired. More use of your backs in the first couple of sets to transfer the defensive advantage that is currently being exploited. It is hard to adjust your gameplan in season, and so the off season will be the place when these tactics are dissected and countered. Every team in the ISC is adjusting to this as are many clubs at the local level that lack the forward size that others enjoy.
The only other question is how will the Walker Boys innovate the game next year?
2: Finals and Grand Final Location Controversy:
This is a complaint from the clubs not located in Brisbane. Ignored or filtered out by the established Brisbane media.
The Grand Final is played in Brisbane and so regardless of your team’s performance it will be played away from the top performers of the last two season’s home ground. It is a state competition that provides a significant and unearned advantage to the Brisbane teams at the end of the season.
Sure, you can compare it to the NRL being in Sydney but that is for the NRL to discuss, and given the outstanding numbers at the final game for 2015 the Sydney crowd came out for it and the TV rating were also exceptional. The same cannot be said about the ISC final. If the Hunters had won against the Jets (a game held in Brisbane rather than PNG where it should have been), the resulting Blackhawks/Hunters game would have struggled to get the numbers in to the ground.
Ultimately this is a State-wide club based competition and so no advantage should occur that is not earned. The Grand Final needs to be hosted in the top finalists ground regardless of the demands of the television station. That they wanted and got games hosted in Brisbane by the lower ranked teams, shows that they do not care about the game, the ethics of the competition, nor its reputation, just the travel costs and their travel rather than the teams that earned it. The Hunters were especially ripped off as runners up in the Minor Premiership and yet they were denied a home game due to the demands of Channel 9. This should not happen again.
3: Some Great Games:
This year we saw some brilliant football played by every team involved. For me the highlights were the Hunters Victory over the Blackhawks in Townsville. Whilst the Blackhawks were down on numbers for the game due to State of Origin taking some of their best into the Cowboys, it was still two very strong teams and due to the strong local PNG expat population in Townsville a lively encounter both on and off the park.
You cannot help but love the passion the Hunters bring into every game. They are intense and yet still happy to chance their arm at any location on the field. They are a big factor in the game for the competition and an awesome motivator to many in PNG.
Across the board there were games that were in the balance right up until the final whistle and the draws also had finals significance nine teams having games that could not be split. If you enjoy good tight football, you really want to watch these games.
4: The Townsville Mendi Blackhawks:
Yes, they had some advantages being tied directly to the Cowboys, but the same can be said about a number of sides who have players who are on loan from NRL clubs for the season.
This year they went all the way to the Grand Final of the ISC, not bad for your first season. But what people do not see is the local impact this club has given to our local players (yes the author is from Townsville). We have some incredible talent in this town and region and up until now, as soon as they reached a certain level they only had options away from town to try and ply their trade. This is hard and the second tier of the completion is not one that pays well enough to make your living from unless you are already a well-known player of the game.
When you look at the level of player in the Townsville junior system, you would be stunned. In this season we had our under 16 and 18 teams take out the state competitions and be denied by inches wins in Sydney for the national titles. That the local high school team, the Kirwan Bears went down to Sydney and took the GIO Cup home shows that the skills and ability runs deep in this small country town. That these young men can now get a chance on this stage, without leaving home, is an excellent opportunity.
The Blackhawks had a great start to their existence. With the quality of juniors coming through to support this team, it will not only be damned hard to beat thanks to their alignment with the Cowboys, they will be damned hard to beat thanks to the fantastic talents of so many of the younger players looking to make their mark on the competition. But they need to be focused, they have already let one young winger move to Brisbane that will be a game changer. Good Luck AJ, see you on the big screen.
5: Players who will be making the leap:
The quality of the Intrust Super Cup is undeniable. At the end of this season we are seeing the departure lounge for these clubs filled not with retirements but with players moving up to the NRL.
The best clubs are always hardest hit, Grand Final victors the Jets are hard hit with Carlin Anderson off to the Broncos, Josh Cleeland and Kurt Capewell to the Sharks, Rod Griffin and William McConnachie to Tigers .The Cowboys have already grabbed one of the hot prospects before he hit the market in Jahrome Hughes from the Blackhawks. Mitchell Frei is on his way to the Roosters from Wynnum Manly, Henare Wells from the Burleigh Bears. A number of players who were on these teams but already signed to major clubs already are missing from this list, but their talents will be replaced and the opportunities presented will give us the chance to find the next great player.
It is not surprising. Next year’s list may well be longer as we get to see the maturity of talent from the Hunters with a number of big young men who may look to leave home to try their luck in the NRL or Super League. They definitely have the size, speed, and skills.
The Intrust Super Cup gives opportunities to many players who may have slipped under the watch of the NRL scouts, whilst some former NRL players extend their careers by playing in the competition; it is the youth that makes this game exciting. We need the old heads in there, they provide leadership and experience and I bet, to a man, they love to see and play next to some of the upcoming talent on show in Australia’s best second tier competition.