Brilliant Genia’s absence brings Reds back to the pack

Paul Cully Columnist

By Paul Cully, Paul Cully is a Roar Expert

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    Will Genia eyes a pass. AAP Images

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    There are few better places to start looking for a side’s prospects in 2013 than reviews of their play last year. Another look at the tapes can challenge prejudices the viewer might nurture – or confirm opinions already held.

    With that in mind replays of two Reds games, against Blues and Crusaders in New Zealand, are rich sources of information.

    They encourage a number of observations: how smart the Reds are, tactically: how the abilities of Rob Simmons should not be forgotten: how Greg Holmes struggled against Owen Franks at scrum time, with Robbie Deans watching from the stands, one week after the Waratahs front row enjoyed parity, or better, against the Crusaders; and, above all, how the smallest player in the Reds’ ranks will leave the biggest hole.

    Will Genia was superb.

    In which facets? All of them. His box-kicking was wonderful, almost always providing a contest for willing chasers, always getting his side moving forwards.

    The passing was crisp, with Genia popping those trademark short, flat passes right on the gainline, or going wider – to 10 or 12 – when he saw the space.

    For Dom Shipperley’s try against the Blues in Auckland, Genia turned his body and produced a precision, right to left looping pass over the last defender to put his winger in the corner.

    And when the Reds went to the pick and drive, a favourite tactic, there was Genia sitting in a little pocket behind the big men, organising and encouraging.

    He does all of these things while holding up the defensive line with the threat of running the ball himself, and with a low error rate.

    Less heralded, although frequently seen, attributes were also on display. From the back of one under-pressure scrum in Christchurch, he somehow picked up the ball and and still manage to recycle possession under a mass of forwards.

    In the ‘sweeping’ role played by the modern No.9 – Genia is particularly solid under the high ball – he again showed that his kicking out of hand has the length and accuracy of any five-eighth in Australia.

    It is the completeness of this rugby package that makes it so difficult for the Reds to replace, regardless of how sharply they are coached.

    His possible replacements are no mugs, either. In both the Crusaders and Blues games Ben Lucas reiterated what a fine player he is, with his accurate crossfield kicks and stout defence a particular feature.

    In his opportunities last year Nick Frisby brought immense energy and promise. But neither has the mastery over the role Genia has.

    And the halfback position has become so influential that the greatest change to the All Blacks’ way of playing last year was brought about simply by the introduction of a new, faster No.9.

    In Super Rugby’s ruthless environment the Reds’ rivals will see a vulnerability to their early campaign. The talk has been of Genia returning in round six.

    By then all of the Australian sides, as well as the Hurricanes, will have had a crack at the Queenslanders,. At the very least defence coaches will sleep easier in Genia’s absence.

    It complicates Quade Cooper’s comeback, too.

    There might be some Australian players relishing the opportunity to put him under a little physical duress should the quality of ball coming his way decrease, or give him less time. But it is not all negative for the No.10.

    If he takes ownership of the side and directs them well without his partner in crime it may be a long-awaited sign of increasing maturity.

    There has been a lot of distracting talk recently about the possible release or non-release of players for fixtures that are four and a half months away.

    But we’ll learn some important lessons much sooner than that.

    Paul Cully
    Paul Cully

    Paul Cully is a freelance journalist who was born in New Zealand, raised in Northern Ireland, but spent most of his working life in Australia. He is a former Sun-Herald sports editor, rugby tragic, and current Roar and RugbyHeaven contributor.

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    The Crowd Says (104)

    • January 24th 2013 @ 10:05am
      Jutsie said | January 24th 2013 @ 10:05am | ! Report

      I dont have an opinion either way regarding greg holmes but thought this statement:
      “how Greg Holmes struggled against Owen Franks at scrum time, with Robbie Deans watching from the stands, one week after the Waratahs front row enjoyed parity, or better, against the Crusaders”

      Is a marvellous troll of the ever expanding “greg holmes for wallabies” cheer squad that frequent this website.
      have grabbed a bucket of popcorn and am awaiting the backlash

      • January 24th 2013 @ 10:15am
        formeropenside said | January 24th 2013 @ 10:15am | ! Report

        he got me, Jutsie, as I was typing as you were.

        Cully is usually pretty smart, so I assume it was deliberate.

      • January 24th 2013 @ 11:23am
        Harry said | January 24th 2013 @ 11:23am | ! Report

        OK he’s got me. That Saders game Franks got away with putting his hand on the ground all the time – an illegal act, although I rememer Paul’s Monday morning defence of this clear illegiality by saying “well he only did it briefly and anyway it should be legal”.
        Twas part of a truly appalling display by Bryce Lawrence…

        I am a Greg Holmes fan but accept that at international level a fit Benn Robinson for starters is a better selection.

        Anyawy as usual agree with this analysis of Genia. Will be mightily missed, particularly by the Quadester.

        Not long now before SuperRugby starts. Counting the days and realy looking forward to it.

        • January 24th 2013 @ 11:29am
          Jutsie said | January 24th 2013 @ 11:29am | ! Report

          You to have been far too reasonable in your rebuttal of cully, very disappointing was hoping for a few more fireworks to entertain me throughout the day 🙂

        • January 24th 2013 @ 11:32am
          Justin2 said | January 24th 2013 @ 11:32am | ! Report

          Harry I thought it was Ben Franks on the LH side that was putting his hand on the ground continually?

          As they say one swallow does not a summer make…

        • Roar Guru

          January 24th 2013 @ 8:31pm
          jeznez said | January 24th 2013 @ 8:31pm | ! Report

          I’m a Holmes supporter but didn’t watch that game closely enough to comment.

      • January 24th 2013 @ 12:15pm
        Justin2 said | January 24th 2013 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

        Did Franks have Thorn behind him that day?

        • January 24th 2013 @ 12:45pm
          Halleys Comet said | January 24th 2013 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

          Thorn wasn’t playing NZ last year..

          • January 24th 2013 @ 12:59pm
            Justin2 said | January 24th 2013 @ 12:59pm | ! Report

            Cheers, time sure does fly!

    • January 24th 2013 @ 10:06am
      formeropenside said | January 24th 2013 @ 10:06am | ! Report

      I’d point out in Greg Holmes defence that was the only time he had trouble at LHP all year, and seemed to me to be largely referee-inflicted.

      Hopefully the Reds can continue their role as the pre-eminant Australian State (in results, if not in subsequent Wallaby selections) in 2013.

      • January 24th 2013 @ 12:40pm
        Hightackle said | January 24th 2013 @ 12:40pm | ! Report

        Reds have the most players in the Wallaby squad Former Openside.

        Reds do rubbish without some players and those players were missed.
        Wallabies still win without those same players and Robbie is an android sent back from the future to destroy Australian rugby?
        I guess I still dont get it.

    • January 24th 2013 @ 10:11am
      Jutsie said | January 24th 2013 @ 10:11am | ! Report

      Cully is right it will be interesting to see how QC copes without genia, in a similar vein to last year when genia had to cope without QC.
      I thought genia struggled when harris played 5/8 as he did not provide an attacking threat so forwards could focus all their attention on hassling genia and ignored harris. Genia played his best rugby for the reds last year when lucas (an underrated player) was at 5/8.


    • Roar Guru

      January 24th 2013 @ 10:24am
      PeterK said | January 24th 2013 @ 10:24am | ! Report

      It is interesting that Genia did play well for the reds BUT they still lost half their games without Cooper.

      If they win more than half with Cooper but without Genia then maybe people will value how much Cooper brings to the table.

      • January 24th 2013 @ 10:49am
        Jerry said | January 24th 2013 @ 10:49am | ! Report

        That stat about Cooper is pretty misleading when you look at the teams they played before and after his return.

        With Cooper – Lions, Brumbies, Rebels, Highlanders, Tahs.

        Only 1 of those sides (the Brumbies) finished in the top half of the table annd all but the Rebels match were at home. Plus the Reds were already in the midst of a return to form having narrowly (some say controversially) lost to the Crusaders before beating the Chiefs (in a dominating fashioni) in the weeks immediately preceding.

      • January 24th 2013 @ 1:16pm
        Hightackle said | January 24th 2013 @ 1:16pm | ! Report

        Cooper does very well in attack at super level. His defence is still sh#t no matter what level he is at.
        At international level Quade does not offer the same value.
        He has showed his kicking game is not up to it. He has shown a tendancy to implode. He has shown an inability to adapt. He has shown a tendancy to blame his coach and team mates for his own shortcomings. He has demonstrated that he is mentaly not up to it.
        To use Quade at 10 for Australia is a roll of the dice. Roll a six and he plays OK. Roll a 1-5 and get anything from crap to average.

        • January 24th 2013 @ 1:23pm
          Justin2 said | January 24th 2013 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

          He has shown a tendency to have the team winning when he plays too.

          • January 24th 2013 @ 1:32pm
            Hightackle said | January 24th 2013 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

            No he doesnt.
            Its extremely boring repeating myself but here we go.
            Quade being in the Wallabies when they beat a team does not mean he caused that win. Just like if McCabe was in the team it doesnt mean he caused the win. Higgs has a higher win % as a Wallaby but just like Quade has underperformed at test level.
            WORK IT OUT.

            • January 24th 2013 @ 2:01pm
              Justin2 said | January 24th 2013 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

              Oh I do get it. I never said he caused the wins.

              His abilities in attack create more opportunities than any other player at 10 and the style the team can play due to those abilities means we are more likely to score points with him in the team.

              GET IT?

          • January 24th 2013 @ 1:37pm
            Hightackle said | January 24th 2013 @ 1:37pm | ! Report

            Quade played 3 tests in 2012. Quade played rubbish in 3 tests in 2012. The Wallabies won 2 of those tests. Quade did not cause those wins. Get it?

        • Roar Guru

          January 24th 2013 @ 1:35pm
          PeterK said | January 24th 2013 @ 1:35pm | ! Report

          for starters this is about the reds and not the wallabies.

          Also you obviously categorise a player and do not see their improvements.
          Cooper has genuinely improved his tackling admitedly from a low base.

          Cooper is a better tackler than Beale.

          During last season Cooper had a better tackle success rate than Barnes and Beale.

          • January 24th 2013 @ 1:42pm
            Hightackle said | January 24th 2013 @ 1:42pm | ! Report

            No he hasnt.
            Coopers defence for Australia in 2012 was terrible.
            He aved about 35% missed tackles according to sports data. He was a speed bump.
            OBVIOUSLY you dont pay attention.
            Barnes is a far superior defender than Cooper. Beale is also a rubbish defender.
            Do you think I make stuff up?

            • Roar Guru

              January 24th 2013 @ 1:48pm
              PeterK said | January 24th 2013 @ 1:48pm | ! Report

              Coopers better tackle rate was in super rugby last year.

              His stats are far better than the previous year in super rugby, hence it is reasonable to say he has improved.

          • January 24th 2013 @ 1:48pm
            Hightackle said | January 24th 2013 @ 1:48pm | ! Report

            Against NZ Quade was targeted.
            He made 9 tackles, pretty good right? He missed 5.
            Against Arg he made 4 and missed 3. Its a shame another player didnt run at him to make it and even 4-4 split.

            • Roar Guru

              January 24th 2013 @ 2:29pm
              PeterK said | January 24th 2013 @ 2:29pm | ! Report

              I challenge your stats.

              On ESPN rugby I looked at each match.

              Cooper made 10 tackles against NZ and missed 0.
              3 and 0 against SA and 5 with 1missed tackle against Argentina.

              In fact Cooper in intls had the best tackle ratio followed by Barnes. Beale easily missed the most.

              Its funny you keep promoting Beale as the best flyhalf option for the Wallabies ignoring how poor a tackler he is but hold this against Cooper. Cooper is better in all areas than Beale at flyhalf.

              Stats from ESPN

              Cooper 18/19 94.7%
              Barnes 60/69 87%
              Beale 70/87 80.5%

              • January 24th 2013 @ 5:25pm
                rl said | January 24th 2013 @ 5:25pm | ! Report

                Peter, much as it pains me, Rugbystats generally seems to back up HT’s numbers (although they might source their data from the same place). Frankly, I find it very hard to believe that Quade or Kurtley achieved better than 80% tackling efficiency.

                I’m not going to judge Quade on last season – he WAS indeed a speedbump during his brief sojourn in international rugby in 2012. And he missed 30% of his tackles in S15 too. But bear in mind he had a very disjointed season, so I’m willing to cut him a bit of slack. Even the great one DC missed 45% of his tackes in his first S15 game last year. But DC, being the ultimate professional, turned it around and ended up missing 17% of his S15 tackles, and around 20% internationally.

                Quade should be at a minimum aiming to get his missed tackles down below 30%. I don’t necessarily think you want your playmaker to be getting trapped at the bottom of every ruck because he’s wrapped around someone’s ankles, but he does need to lift his defensive effort.

    • January 24th 2013 @ 10:26am
      Gatesy said | January 24th 2013 @ 10:26am | ! Report

      Disagree about the box kick. While he might have been on song for that particular game, I think he over uses it and gifts possession to the opposition, when his own side could have ground out the ten or fifteen metres that it gained, and it doesnt always see him putting his forwards on the front foot.

    • January 24th 2013 @ 10:43am
      mania said | January 24th 2013 @ 10:43am | ! Report

      agree. genia’s box kick was above average in that game but it needs a lot of work to be consistent.
      the single thing that makes genia world class that cully touched on is “his low error rate”

      • January 24th 2013 @ 10:45am
        Jutsie said | January 24th 2013 @ 10:45am | ! Report

        Deceptive pace and on field leadership are two other factors. When the reds are on song horwill may be captain but its genia/QC who are running the ship.

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