19 Sep 40/20 Vision with Scott Prince
Yes, any game is a 17-man effort, especially at this time of the year. But, believe me, without a ‘7’ who is on his game you may as well stay in the sheds listening to Miley Cyrus.
You often hear: ‘Forwards win the big games’. ‘Defence wins the big games’. ‘Attitude wins the big games’.
All true. But, more than any anything ‘The ‘7’ wins the big games’.
Why? Because that is his job.
It’s his job to have the ball in his hands more than any other player. It’s his job to dictate attack. It’s his job to tactically outmanoeuvre the opposition with his use of the playbook and his kicking game.
When a split second-opening appears, it is his job to capitalise with the right play.
When the team is under the pump they look to him for that spark, because that’s his job.
His job is also to dictate the pace of the game. Don’t look too far ahead. Calmly play out the five tackles in attack and then find the corner. Put the opposition where you want them, not where they want to be. But then hit the accelerator when the time is just right.
Every player has a key role, but the ‘7’ is the conductor. He brings it all together.
If he is playing injured, out of form, lacking confidence, then instead of a beautiful symphony, you end up with a primary school recital.
Every ‘7’ lining up this weekend – Cherry-Evans, Reynolds, Pearce, Soward, Thurston, Hunt, Cronk, Hodkinson – all have the appropriate skill set. They would not be there if they did not.
But you need more than that.
Be cool: Finals football is a blowtorch and nobody feels it more than the 7. So you need a ‘7’ that remains cool when the heat is on. All eight of the above are pretty cool individuals. But the standout is Cherry-Evans. His demeanour doesn’t change from the first minute to the 80th. Thurston’s calmness has improved a great deal over the past couple of seasons. Seldom do you now see the tiny tantrum. Cronk is in the same category. Age and experience have calmed him.
Consistency: Whether it is a career, a season or 80 minutes, the really good 7s are consistent. For me Thurston, Cronk, Reynolds and Hodkinson are the standouts here. Reynolds and Hodkinson may not have the brilliance of a Pearce or Soward, but nine times out of 10 they will deliver their best game.
Form = confidence: If you have a ‘7’ who is on fire then look out. Pearce is a classic example. Many still have a question mark over the Roosters’ half. But the more times he delivers the smaller that question mark becomes. The halves that are in great form at the moment are Thurston, Pearce and Hunt. For me, form and confidence are the great deciders. If a ‘7’ is playing on self belief then the whole team picks up on that and they become unstoppable.
Team structure: The ‘7’ is the central cog for the team. The other 16 must be doing their job correctly so that everything is in sync. If other players are doing what they are supposed to be doing then the whole machine marches forward. The ‘7’ may be having a blinder, but if others aren’t doing their jobs, the team machine miss-fires and is far less effective.
So there are all the ‘must-haves’ when looking at our finals teams and their ‘7s’. But the two most important elements in the race for the premiership are the 7’s form and team structure.
That is why I believe the standouts for 2014 are the Cowboys and the Roosters. Thurston and Pearce are both brilliant players who are in career-best form right now. They are also each backed by 16 players who have shown in recent weeks that they also are not only running into great form individually, but as a team they are all gelling around the ‘7’.
One final tip for selecting your premiers for 2014. A great indication is final round form.
In fact since 2001, 11 of the 13 successful grand finalists won their last round game. The Tigers of 2005 and Manly (2011) are the two exceptions.
Using that methodology – you can run a line through Manly, Bulldogs, Broncos and Rabbits.