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On Friday, watching my beloved Bridgang do a number on the Red V, I couldn’t help focusing on numbers 11 & 12.
They remind me so much of the edge backrowers who got the job done in 2011.
And I don’t say that lightly.
Firstly Josh Schuster.
I know he played five eighth on the weekend but that was due to his skipper, in DCE, being rested two days removed from origin – along with Turbo.
But when he plays back-row he gives me heavy Glenn Stewart vibes.
Although Gifty played the majority of his career on the right where as Schuster plays left.
The similarities come though with how well they play and ask questions with the footy, compared to the traditional line running backrower.
We joke around about Schuster being the first legally blind NRL player (shout out to the Hello Sports podcast) when he throws those no-lookers out the back of block shape to a sweeping Turbo.
But Gifty was the OG, and perfected that play with his brother.
The reason it’s so hard to defend is that it plays on the centre, so if the winger fucks up it’s almost impossible to recover from.
Whereas if the shape is on the half, three in from the sideline, you have multiple options to cover.
But that’s not their only weapon.
Both are extremely hard to tackle one-on-one in contact due to late, subtle foot-work, and have the ability to roll a footy in behind the line with a deft kick.
Giftys kick in the 2011 GF to relieve pressure and get them on the front-foot is one of the more slept-on plays in grand final history.
As for Haumole Olakau’atu.
Hes 2021s version of T-Rex.
Tony Williams was devastating from 2011-2014 in particular.
Unlike the two above, the shape doesn’t have to be great for them to break a defensive line down.
They just kick the door down and walk on in.
Big Shmole has been one of the finds of the season on the right edge for Manly, and is only getting better with every performance.
Where they are there most devastating though is when they get dropped underneath on a X play, straight in to the opposing team’s half.
Which makes it almost impossible for the surrounding defenders to assist their mismatched ball-player.
Both standing at 6’5 and a buck fifteen with change, their physical presence opens up opportunities for the outside men when used as decoys.
Like I stated above, it’s high praise but both are trending in the right direction.
Cant wait to see what they do in the back end of the year.