Looking back at 2007, not only did the NRL produce some spectacular Rugby League with the likes of boom rookies; Israel Folau, Kris Inu and Jarrod Mullen showing their wares – many other players will be remembered for their exploited weaknesses this year.
With NRL Rugby League teams continuing to get closer in talent and facilities each year, naturally every team is studying hard to exploit the weaknesses available in some players. Hours of video training allow coaches and assistants to pin-point possible players to target and will rally their troops to probe at certain positions.
This year the following players were examined and had their weaknesses exposed:
Manu Vatuvei (Warriors) – The big and strong Warriors winger was turned into a bundle of nerves at Parramatta Stadium this year when the Eels continued to bomb his wing without surrender. Wave after wave of bombing raids came his way and big Vatuvei was virtually closing his eyes and hoping for the best as things wore on. All told Vatuvei was directly responsible for 3 tries against his team that night, and would have let in another had a 50/50 video ref call not gone his way. After this match, all other NRL teams began sounding our Vatuvei through attacking high kicks.
Steve Matai (Manly) – The aggressive Kiwi outside back is known for his big hits and elusive running, but in 2007 several teams worked out that his aggression is also his biggest weakness. Matai was regularly sucked in by opposing attacking raids, enticing him to charge out of the line as the attackers passed around him and scored in his corner. Matai did little to curb his habit, preferring to ensure the big hits came off rather than keep his aggression in check.
Eric Grothe (Eels) – A bittersweet year for the Eels winger, the solid speed man hitting his straps in attack and receiving accolades for his form – but also copping plenty of mentions for his questionable line defence and sometimes wavering commitment to Rugby League. Not a noted trainer, Grothe Juniors mindset came through when he turned down a Kangaroo jersey to concentrate on his music.
Benji Marshall (Tigers) – A living legend only 2 years ago when he helped the Wests Tigers to their maiden NRL premiership; Benji Marshall is a walking hospital ward with continual shoulder problems and horrid defence technique for his team. Regularly hidden on the flanks, opposing teams initially bombed him into submission; making the classy pivot look ordinary when trying to defend kicks and the final straw was his effort against Newcastle where his two late lapses cost his team a spot in the finals.
Richie Williams (Penrith) – The former St George pivot moved to the Panthers mid-season but was badly exposed in defence. His one on one tackling needs a lot of work and the Dragons must be stoked to have offloaded the live wire half. Shows promise and elusive attack, but 2007 has left him a major target for opposing runners.