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21 man squad v Castleford

My expectations for Davies and Royle aren't the same as those for Percy or Siro or whomever. I know what they are and most importantly what they are not. Judged entirely within that framework I didn't have any real issues with their performances against Cas. Davies does have a tendency to jam in late. But I think he got his timings right for much of the game - particularly in the first half. Castleford didn't get much change down their channel and if Waqa had committed to taking out the ball carrier on that overlap they would have pitched a shutout on defence. We can say it's only Castleford. But they get paid just like our lads do. And they've played well recently.

I can't criticize Davies and Royle for not being Jamie Lyon or Chris Joynt. They'll never be such so I can only judge them against what they are capable of bringing to the table. What I will say is, if I'm assessing players on whether or not they meet my expectations then Royle, Davies (and Ritson) are way, way down at the bottom of the list of problems. Right now we have some guys with big reputations drawing the lion's share of the cap who are performing nowhere near the level I expect. Moreover, the very fact that these high-priced superstars are performing so badly has a direct impact on the performances of these squad players.

Davies got one - possibly two good opportunities where he was put into space. He got Blake away and what happens? Waqa has a monumental brain explosion trying to pass back to Davies who was completely covered and possession was lost. Now, I don't know how much money Blake is on. But I think I can be reasonably sure it's a lot more than Davies. Regarding Royle, no one would argue that he played a better game than Siro. He's not in the same class as Paul ... but ... Royle wasn't the guy who went in late with a shoulder charge right in front of the referee. I can't say whether Siro will get banned as I suspect that because Delaney was penalized for a high shot a split second earlier on the same guy they might not pick it up. But they should because it was completely unnecessary and players have been banned for similar incidents all season. The point here is for all of Siro's energy and physicality in that game - it's worth nothing if he gets banned and we can't pick him for several weeks. Siro is getting paid a lot of money. Far, far more than Royle. It's one thing for Royle not being an offensive juggernaut or dominant in the tackle. It's something else entirely when someone we desperately need over the coming weeks is wantonly putting the team's fortunes in jeopardy.
Spot on.

When the senior players are being dumb, I find it hard to believe that they get a free pass and the younger players get it in the neck, again.

I find it hard to believe that fans can't work out the 4th or 5th choice player in a position can't be as good as the 1st. Especially in a salary capped sport.

Equally, the "just chuck a young lad in policy" doesn't really work for our game vs Wigan. If we put in one of our academy half backs vs Wigan, you know for a fact one of Wigans thug forwards would try to cripple him. This is where you need physically mature backups like Burns to come in. He may not be as flash as a Whitby or Robertson but he is more likely to be able to hold his own. Same with Royle over Cowen or Davies over Vaughan.
 
I have this mental of image of Scully flipping out, kicking open the dressing room door at full time and going full Stone Cold Steve Austin dropping stunners on half the teamsheet

"And that's the bottom line, coz Stone Cold Scully says so!"
 
Spot on.

When the senior players are being dumb, I find it hard to believe that they get a free pass and the younger players get it in the neck, again.

I find it hard to believe that fans can't work out the 4th or 5th choice player in a position can't be as good as the 1st. Especially in a salary capped sport.

Equally, the "just chuck a young lad in policy" doesn't really work for our game vs Wigan. If we put in one of our academy half backs vs Wigan, you know for a fact one of Wigans thug forwards would try to cripple him. This is where you need physically mature backups like Burns to come in. He may not be as flash as a Whitby or Robertson but he is more likely to be able to hold his own. Same with Royle over Cowen or Davies over Vaughan.
Yeah. Wigan aren't quite as grubby under Peet. But it's fair to say playing kids against Wane or Maguire was akin to issuing a death sentence. This idea that we should have played them a few games ago really doesn't wash. Sure, they might have a little more confidence going into the game. But nothing they've experienced is likely to prepare them for Wigan. My fingers are crossed for these lads .. but ... it's gonna be hairier than the ass end of a bear turd. :eek:
 
I think to play Woolfball you need to have a team full of very fit guys close to their primes. You can have one or two older players. But not half the squad. We beat other teams by being able to hold a high level of intensity for longer than the opposition. Of course, there was some skill involved. But we generally waited until the back end before turning on the style when their players were completely gassed.

Woolfball is still a valid strategy. It just isn't for this group of players. They don't have the fitness. They don't have the conditioning (compare Tommy's physique to four years ago) and they can't hold their intensity. Thing is, the coaching staff will have all the GPS data logged over the last few years and be able to compare a player's performance and biometrics today vs four seasons ago. If we could hold of that big Excel spreadsheet I think it would speak volumes.

I think your first para is spot on.

Woolfball took a huge level of physical intensity - but I don't think it's just down to age.

Back in 2020, this group was still hungry. They'd had 3 seasons of incremental improvement under Holbrook, culminating in that GF win (the first silverware for many of our players).

Come the next season, we laboured in that pre-Covid part of 2020. Maybe some thought initially that they'd achieved their ambition and mentally sat back a little; maybe some disagreed with - or struggled to follow - Woolf's new tactics. The upshot was a fall-back in results as we looked confused and jaded on the pitch.

I'm thinking now that Woolf, with his intense character and air of menace, was actually the ideal candidate to succeed Holbrook. He would be able to shake everyone out of any post-Holbrook sense of achievement.

We know that at least some of our players took it upon themselves to get super-fit in that lockdown period - was that a reflection of the professionalism of our players, or desire to follow Woolf's instructions? Probably a combination of both. The result was a transformed team when rugby resumed. Woolf's tactics worked and delivered a second successive SL title. The players fully buy-in to Woolfball.

But few players can continue that intensity indefinitely. Bodies become knackered and mentally it's a challenge, In football, Klopp is one of the best managers around - but he burns through midfielders, as he demands such physical intensity from them. With Saints, the core of those players racked up 4 in a row and a WCC. That's history-book stuff and subconsciously it was always going to be a struggle to get them up to that peak for yet another campaign - especially, as you say, many were into/approaching their 30's. Throw in the departure of Woolf and the very different personality of Wellens, and there's a perfect storm.

It goes further, though.

One feature of Woolfball was to physically intimidate opposition players, especially ball-players. I don't think the number of times our players would hit ball-players fractionally late was a coincidence. It was almost like ( ;) ) the instruction to the likes of Lees, Mata'utia, Sironen, Knowles was to not pull out of any tackle if you could make impact within half a second of the carrier passing/kicking. For the first season, it broadly worked, in the second we started getting pinged more (mostly for not wrapping arms), but in the third season the bans started racking up and I think the MRP (and to a lesser extent refs) twigged it was a tactic we were using and determined to stamp down on it. That MRP attitude carried over into Wellens' first season (the yellows in the Leigh & Leeds games, with bans for Siro/Sione for hitting & wrapping arms a microsecond after the ball was released).

And now this season, with the further rule changes (although, after a flurry of bans at the start of the season - unless you were a piescum player, obvs - they've mostly gone to sleep, barring the odd ridiculous ban - like for Mbye) .

So even if Woolf was just coming in now and our players were 4 years younger and still with a hunger to prove themselves, it wouldn't be possible to implement Woolfball to its full extent. Because the rules and MRP wouldn't allow for it.
 
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