What’s Coach Price’s master plan for Benji?

Brian Smith Columnist

19 Have your say

    Dragons coach Steve Price is running out of time. (AAP Image/Action Photographics, Colin Whelan)

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    As predicted Round 9 results were a crazy lot. The varied preparations, dependent on what each club faced due to the representative weekend set us up for some remarkable score lines, some outstanding performances and some absolute shockers too.

    It’s very difficult around rep time to achieve that quality in preparation. Some clubs get hit very hard around this time of year and others don’t. Rep selections cause disruption to individual and team cohesion, as well as time away from regular and routine training plans. Some clubs benefit from their opposition’s poor preparation or unfortunate situations created by on or off-field circumstances.

    To read more Brian Smith, outside The Roar, check out his website SmithySpeaks.

    Most people have never had to make a living by using the mind and body to its max. It’s hard then for those people to appreciate just how vital quality preparation is and how it determines optimal performance. Many individuals in footy also struggle to understand it as they have never prepared for optimal performance with consistent and continuous ideal preparation.

    Yes, it’s true: some guys have never decided to get the absolute best out of themselves in all areas of their lives.

    It must be tough for some clubs management, coaches, players and fans to accept a disruption when highly-paid individuals disregard the importance of personal preparation though self-indulgence and lack of personal discipline. Repeat offenders will surely become a major liability soon as clubs become more business-like in their governance.

    The task of having a well prepared team is made more difficult through injury and suspensions. Minimising all of these factors is vital to putting the best team on the field consistently.

    While the salary cap is designed to equalise talent it sometimes works in reverse as we all know. The loss of key players can hurt your club’s chances of success because you can’t go out and replace that loss unless there is a contingency plan in place.

    It appears the Dragons kept some space in their salary cap and have decided to add Benji Marshall to their roster. Everyone has an opinion on how they think he will perform and so do I.

    It’s hard to see it being a successful time if you look at his most recent time in NRL footy. But if his confession of distractions and poor preparation in his dying days at Wests are true, that may allow some room for improvement in this comeback.

    The coaches and management and the Dragons must feel that Benji’s commitment to preparation is strong. Their decision to give him a shot (a contract and compensation to the Tigers) must at least have a chance of coming off.

    I thought that Gareth Widdop and Sam Williams were bought to rectify the team’s problems of last season. Michael Witt was added to that for depth. My preview of the Dragons in 2014 suggested that they addressed that area fully but the most obvious frailty of previous seasons was not attended to. It still appears that way to me.

    It seems to me a strange decision to spend a considerable sum on Marshall when it’s most unlikely that he can do much to alter team success when the biggest issue is lack of size and power in the forwards?

    That’s the obvious part. The result looks disastrous.

    What is not so clear is Coach Price’s response to this ‘strange addition’. Does he have a completely different plan for this version of the merged club for the second half of season 2014 and beyond? Has he decided that there is no likelihood of any significant change in forward personnel nor their ability to up the physical ante as he asked for prior to the demolition job the Bulldogs’ pack did on his own crew?

    Is it time for a total change in the team’s attacking style? Should we expect Benji-style, with less reliance on forwards but lots more ball movement and lateral running? Has Benji still got the speed and stamina for that?

    Could Coach Price be willing to change all his principles of attack to create a whole new system? I think not.

    As one of my conspiracy theorist mates at my local suggested is Benji step one and Coach Sheens step two?

    While across the ‘detch’ the Warriors ownership and management have decided they have seen enough of Andrew McFadden in the driver’s seat as head coach after that smashing victory over Canberra and the away win at Melbourne.

    Almost everything I have heard of the performance of this rookie coach in his professional development through Raiders, Catalan Dragons and Warriors speaks of directness in dealing with players and knowing his footy. There is plenty of confidence he will do well with this opportunity in the Big League.

    A concern for me would be that the decision was taken after a huge win over a team completely out of form at present. I wonder if those that made the decision would have taken the same one next Monday if the Warriors cop a thorough going over by the Bulldogs.

    Owner Eric Watson’s tweet made me just a little less confident for Coach McFadden.

    Brian Smith
    Brian Smith

    Brian Smith is a former player with St. George and South Sydney and first grade coach at Illawarra, St. George Dragons, Bradford Bulls, Parramatta, the Knights and the Roosters. He has taken teams to the NRL Grand Final on four occasions. He is a weekly columnist on The Roar, but to read more of his writing on rugby league, check out his website, Smithy Speaks.