For me, Darius Boyd is a winger
Darius Boyd comes up against Jonathan Wright. AAP Image/Action Photographics, Renee McKay
So there has been a lot of talk in the last few weeks, as there always seems to be at this time of year, about NRL footballers playing out of position for the benefit of their club/state/country.
Just this year, we’ve had Greg Inglis switching from centre to fullback for Souths.
Jonathon Thurston has gone from half to five-eighth for the Cowboys.
Blake Ayshford at the Tigers, has moved from centre to five-eighth to try to accommodate Benji Marshall’s switch to halfback.
Jarryd Hayne and Paul Gallen have both played outside their usual club positions for NSW in Origin I.
This weekend, we will see the ‘Josh Dugan at 6’ experiment for the Canberra Raiders (as a Raiders fan, I am sceptical of this).
Sometimes, these switches work and benefit both the player, and the team they are playing for (Inglis, Gallen and Thurston are examples of this).
Other times, the switches are abandoned because they are proven to be bad ideas (in recent years, Inglis and Mark Gasnier went from centre to five-eighth and back again, and even Todd Carney found himself briefly at fullback for the Roosters).
But there is one switch I think hasn’t been fully committed to that should be.
Darius Boyd scored two tries for Queensland in Origin I. He has scored a total of eight tries in 12 Origin games for Queensland, all on the wing.
He has proved himself to be a capable finisher on the extreme edges, and possesses the skills to find the line from a short distance when presented with the space (like all good wingers these days have to be able to do).
So why doesn’t he play on the wing for Newcastle?
I know he was a big money signing, and I know he was seen as the answer to the Knights ‘Kurt Gidley’ riddle, allowing them to move Gidley closer to the action.
But he has proven himself to be thoroughly ineffective at fullback. The Courier Mail reported yesterday that Darius Boyd has made just one line break from 885 minutes of football this season.
He has also scored a total of zero tries. That’s right, a duck egg.
No-one doubts that Boyd has defensive skill, but he simply lacks the strike that the modern role of fullback requires.
Players like Billy Slater, Brett Stewart, Josh Dugan or Ben Barba; these guys can score tries, set them up, constantly make line breaks – they are legitimate attacking weapons, inserted at will to upset opposition defences.
Boyd is not a threat in this way.
And this lack of strike power in attack is not something that has just happened this year.
In 2009 Darius Boyd took until round 20 to score his first try for the Dragons. He only scored four tries in total in 2009/10. From most fullbacks in the league this would be seen as a disaster.
Boyd is a talented finisher when space is presented, but simply struggles to create it himself, either for himself or for anyone else.
He has defensive skills and is good under a high ball – both skills which can also be used on the wing.
For me, Darius Boyd is a winger. The Knights already have two of the four Origin wingers in Akuila Uate and Boyd – but one of them has been shown to be out of position. The ‘Boyd at fullback’ experiment should end now.