Friday Night Storm Brewing

As the Melbourne Storm continue to cop criticism over their grappling tactics; pressure on the NRL and Rugby League authorities to stamp out the dangerous practice grows.

Friday nights blockbuster clash between the Melbourne Storm and the Parramatta Eels is set to direct the pressure directly on to NRL Referee Tony Archer. The Round 23 NRL match-up will pit the first place Storm up against the third placed Eels in a nice entree to NRL Finals football. And Tony ‘Love a Chat’ Archer is the man in the hot seat.

It’s no secret that Melbourne have built their NRL campaign around superior ruck tactics and they are the masters of ‘ruck spoiling’. Their wrestling style and of course their tendency to ‘grapple’ the heads of opposition players gives them plenty of extra time as the tackler struggles to get up quickly.

The other advantage for the Melbourne; is that most NRL teams are ‘beaten mentally’ even before they match up against the might of the Storm. See, teams that play Melbourne are regularly urging the referee to blow a penalty as they are being tackled. So, in most cases even when Melbourne aren’t illegally grappling – you will see the tackled player struggling, straining and screaming at the referee to blow a penalty.

This approach from opposition NRL teams actually wastes more time in the play the ball and takes the teams mind off the next play. So Melbourne are actually getting an advantage without even employing their skillful delaying tactics.

The key to getting over the top of Melbourne and minimising the impact of their grapple is for the big opposing forwards to hit the ball up hard, but also find the turf very quickly. By employing border line surrender tackles against the Storm, it nullifies their ability to hold up the play. Yes, ‘surrender’ calls from the referee may allow defenders more time to lay on the tackled player – but it’s possible teams opposing the Storm could find a good balance.

It will be a very interesting match-up this Friday night, the Storm with a big home night crowd behind them will want to fire on all cylinders against quality opposition. For the Eels, their forward pack and more specifically Josh Cordoba are known for their ability to find the ground quickly in tackles. The match up in the forwards will set the scene early – but the main course will be on the fringes. Israel Folau vs Kris Inu, Matt King vs Eric Grothe – there are match ups all over the park that will be compulsive viewing.

Tony Archer loves a chat during the game; his voice can regularly be heard booming over the airwaves as he controls the game. I have a sneaky suspicion he might be yelling ‘surrender’ a lot more than usual.

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