NRL Coaches

Should NRL teams KISS or RISK?

The margin between wining and losing NRL Rugby League games these days is extremely thin. Coaches know all to well – that an incorrect play the ball, a marginally forward dummy half pass or a penalty swings the momentum and throws out many game plans intended from the outset of the game.

KISS Method – Keep it simple stupid. No disrespect intended to NRL players here, this is a well known business mentality and can be applied to modern day NRL. The idea of simple, error free football – such as one out plays, only kicking on tackle 5 or limiting long or extended passing movements reduces the chance of errors.

Ok, so this style isn’t going to get you 30+ points in a game – but what it does mean, that through more possession and hopefully with a good kicking game; a team should have better field position and will reduce the other teams chances of scoring, through lack of ball.

Apply this theory to say the Roosters. If the Chooks were facing Melbourne, their chances of winning on current form are next to none. If the Roosters employ a KISS style of game, so they hit it up from dummy half and employ one out hit-ups and secure the ball on every attacking play. And then if they are lucky enough to receive some dropped ball, penalties or poor kicks from Melbourne – they have such a better chance of winning.

Its not for all teams and it’s certainly hard to prevent all players from giving away penalties, or dropping the ball or pushing the miracle pass – but it makes sense and the simple equation means less chance of errors and thus more possession.

An example of this method was employed by the Parramatta Eels in Round 3 against the Tigers. The Eels coming off two losses and struggling for confidence, played a very simple style of Rugby League. Every tackle, another forward would hit it up, then a dummy half run, another hit up and then a kick on play 5. Sure, it’s dour, grinding football – but it allowed Parramatta to retain possession and build confidence after 2 heavy losses in Round 1 and 2. On the flip side, you had the Tigers – throwing flick passess, throwing long passes that got intercepted and chipping and chancing their arm on various tackles within the set. Parramatta on this night scored tries from a Wests dropped ball and an intercept – they did the basics and were in a position to capitalize on the errors from Wests Tigers.

Result – on this occasion the simple style won out. Parramatta then increased their tempo and style in Round 4 against Canberra and upped it again in Round 5 resulting in some nice length of the field plays against Penrith; as they moved away from the basic KISS style of play.

RISK Method – this style of football was pioneered by Penrith in 2003 and perfected by the Tigers team of 2005. Put simply, throwing plenty of passes and keeping the ball alive at all costs and hoping to outscore the competitor no matter how many points conceded.

While very exciting to watch – exactly as the name says its ‘risky’ – the failure of fancy or long passes can sometimes mean an intercept and instantly conceding points. While there are certain times to employ this style, such as when playing a team with tightly compressed defence, where it makes sense to swing it wide and roll the dice. It makes even more sense to employ this style; when a team is high on confidence.

So here you have a high level explanation of the two contrasting styles, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. Today’s coaching teams and strategists get even more granular with their planning.

In the KISS style of play, the coach must ensure the team employing the tactic is careful not to concede penalties and hence roll away from the tackled player safely, their marker defence must be directly square and testing the referee on the 10m is a big no-no. To keep this up for 80m takes intense fitness and high bench rotation.

For the RISK method the opposite is true, tacklers will test the referee early and see how long they can pin the attacker down or trim a few meteres in defence as Steve Clark looks the other way.

This leads to the referee factor. The tactical analysis and planning in todays NRL is so wide ranging that coaches know which referees they can push the boundaries with and which referees that are much more strict and will punish quickly for infringements.

This is why Bill Harrigan was such a decorated referee, because coaches never knew what they were going to get – some days you got ‘Entertainment Bill’ who let games flow and ensured the crowd saw free flowing football; but on other days you got ‘Policeman Bill’ who would come down hard on anything illegal and have the sin-bin full of naughty boys.

We see games won by every week now by a field goal, or lost by a conceded penalty or even lost by an incorrect video decision? Who would have thought with the aid of a video – it could still go wrong?

As you go crazy over your tips each week, one things for sure: The Roosters really should – KISS – KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID.

By ricky

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