What is the solution to the Dragons’ halfback dilemma?

Dr Chop Roar Guru

By Dr Chop, Dr Chop is a Roar Guru

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17 Have your say

    I sit here writing this, having just witnessed one of the most disgraceful performances I think I’ve ever seen from my beloved Dragons.

    After dominating proceedings for the first hour of play, against a Brisbane side who used up all their interchanges with 15 minutes to go, the Dragons somehow managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

    I first want to congratulate Brisbane on a gutsy, hard fought win. They were the best team by a mile.

    Before I get into the negatives (there are a lot) I’ll go through some positives for St George.

    Trent Merrin was outstanding. He got robbed of a try in the first half by Nathan Fien’s stupidity and was the only Dragons’ player who looked consistently dangerous throughout the game.

    Most importantly, he was the only Dragon playing with confidence.

    It’s a massive thing, confidence. You can tell Merrin has it because he always backs himself to get an offload away or to break a tackle.

    Even when it doesn’t come off, it doesn’t shake his confidence.

    There were a few other positives. Leeson Ah Mau was great. So too were Mick Weyman (apart from his missed tackle on Reed – that was a shocker), Dan Hunt and Matt Prior.

    The only thing that needs improvement as far as they’re concerned is offloads, because at the moment, Merrin is the only player promoting second phase play.

    Brett Morris had his moments, although he should have backed himself in a foot race against Justin Hodges in the 35th minute.

    Nightingale too was solid except for that one mistake he made at the back which cost us a try.

    That’s about where the positives end.

    As for the negatives? Nathan Fien, Nathan Fien and Nathan Fien.

    I maintain that Jamie Soward still has what it takes to perform as a first grade half or five eighth.

    His 40/20 kick in the first half is proof of that. The same cannot be said about Fien.

    Nathan Fien is not, nor has he ever been, a first grade halfback. He is a playmaker, yes.

    As a dummy half with a good kicking game, he has the skill set to cover as a half or five eighth if someone gets injured during a match. He does not possess the skills to hold either of those positions permanently.

    Before the season started, many predicted that the Fien-halfback experiment would not be a success (myself included).

    Having shown no signs of stepping up to this role in the first two games (or Charity Shield), I think it’s safe to say that the Fien-halfback experiment has failed.

    So with this in mind, who is the answer to the Dragons halfback conundrum?

    Josh Drinkwater

    From all reports this kid knows how to play. He topped try-assists in the U20s last year with the team who ran last (Manly).

    Obviously question marks exist over his ability to handle the physicality of NRL-level football, which is probably why Steve Price wants him playing NSW Cup so that he can adjust to tackling against men.

    However, the way Fien tackled (or didn’t tackle) tonight, I doubt Drinkwater would be any worse.

    And even if he is, at least he’ll become a better player for the experience. Drinkwater is young, fresh and enthusiastic. Bring him in already, Price.

    Chase Stanley (Soward to halfback)

    A left-field solution, that’s for sure. If he was picked at five-eighth it would not be a permanent thing but just until Price feels Drinkwater is ready.

    He would be a running five eighth. Having a halves partner who runs the ball would allow Soward more time to direct the team, kick and create tries.

    Putting Stanley in would also allow the Dragons to used Dan Vidot at right centre.

    The Dragons are sorely lacking in size out wide. Vidot has bulked up in the off season – he could really help in that department.

    Evander Cummins (Soward to halfback)

    The Dragons have HUGE wraps on this kid. From all reports he has speed to burn. I’m talking Brett Morris speed.

    I’ll be honest, I watched him play once in the U20s Origin game. He didn’t get the ball much, but when he did he was impressive.

    This kid will play first grade at some stage this year (unless Price is completely incompetent), and with Beale having a mortgage on the fullback jersey, I don’t think Cummins would look out of place at five eighth.

    Josh Dugan (Soward to halfback)

    If rumours are to be believed, the Dragons are Dugan’s most likely destination if he is to remain in the NRL.

    I know he’s not a five eighth (although he has played there before with mixed success), but with the way the modern game is, fullbacks are required to be proficient ball players.

    Dugan also has a good (better than Fien) kicking game, which would take pressure off Soward.

    It’s a long shot though – we need to sign him first!

    Ben Hornby

    Stranger things have happened. I remember thinking towards the end of last year, “surely no one could do a worse job than Hornby “.

    Well, I was wrong. Fien is doing a worse job than Hornby.

    If nothing else, at least the Dragons would have a good leader on the park (feel free to prove me wrong on that one, Ben Creagh).

    So what do you think fellow Roarers? What is the answer to the Dragons’ halfback problem?

    If you could choose from any and every NRL player in the competition, who would you pick in your rugby league dream team? Let us know with our team picker right here, and be sure to share it with all your league-loving mates.

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    The Crowd Says (17)

    • March 16th 2013 @ 7:50am
      Big Time said | March 16th 2013 @ 7:50am | ! Report

      Buy Dugan, Beale to right centre and Cummins or Drinkwater to half. Forwards have matched it with the other fowards both games, last night they were better. Dragons are getting plenty of chances but cannot finish it off. Bring Sheens in. I wish Price would make it, but maybe he is just a very good assistant. Sheen coached sides have always been good attacking sides. I heard they have already talked to him.

    • Roar Guru

      March 16th 2013 @ 1:00pm
      Bazzio said | March 16th 2013 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

      It’s not simply a half-back drama ~ the team appears to be following tired, old, predictable, worn-out, methods; i.e. coaching instructions.
      Areas needing urgent address ~
      * Angle-running players backing up the ball carrier (anyone)
      * Watch the ball all the way into TWO hands (Nightingale, Soward)
      * Grubber kick AWAY from close defenders (Nightingale, Soward, Fein)
      * Pass backward (Fein)
      * CHARGE the defence when in possession (forget the jumps, hops, & skips on approach ~ run the lines and angles)
      * Set up more through the middle forward ball plays, then run & chip-kick
      * Chip-kick deeper, more often ~ THEN run the ball wide

    • March 16th 2013 @ 3:28pm
      Worlds biggest said | March 16th 2013 @ 3:28pm | ! Report

      Bring back Perry Haddock or Steve Linane !

      • March 18th 2013 @ 4:03pm
        Terry Kidd said | March 18th 2013 @ 4:03pm | ! Report

        How about Billy Smith ??

    • March 17th 2013 @ 2:45pm
      Charles NSW said | March 17th 2013 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

      I mentioned the same comments in another segment as to what superstar superhuman has said with the 1/2 back problem. I disagree that Nathan Fien was never a 1/2 back in first grade, that is not true, he has represented at that level. It is probably the reason that the coach is sticking with him hoping to imrove over time. It really is a sticky situation for the coach and as time goes by it will be harder for him. The juniors need to be groomed but too fast and they will burn out far too early. What he may do is put Nathan Fiend in and then interchange with Joshua Drinkwater. In this way he can see how he goes without putting too much pressure on him. Otherwise put someone with experience in 1st grade like Chase Stanley in at 5/8th and Jamie Soward at 1/2 back.

      • March 17th 2013 @ 9:20pm
        Dr Chop said | March 17th 2013 @ 9:20pm | ! Report

        Fien played all 4 2010 4 nations games at halfback for the Kiwis because there was no one else. That is exactly my point. As a halfback or five eighth, he is at best, a stop-gap solution. When he was younger he had the skills and athleticism to compensate for a lack of knowledge of the halfback position. When blokes get older, their physical ability and skill set deteriorates, and they have to use their experience and knowledge to compensate for this. Was Darren Lockyer at his best physically or skill-wise in his last season? No. Was he still the best five eighth in the world? Yes. Why? Because he evolved his game, and used the great familiarity he had with the game and his position to compensate for his decreasing athleticism and skills. Obviously Fien is not Lockyer (not even close), but the principle is still the same. Fien is a hooker. He has played 250 odd NRL games and 20 tests, the vast, vast majority of which were at hooker. Surely you must realize the utter stupidity of playing a 33 year old in his final season, in an essentially new position. I will say this: I believe that as a dummy half, Fien may well still have a fair bit to offer (at least for this season). As it happens, the Dragons have two of the best up and coming dummy halves in the game in Mitch Rein and Cameron King. If Price believes that Fien is a better option than 1 or both of these guys, then by all means put him in the 17 as a hooker or back-up hooker. If he doesn’t believe that Fien is better than King or Rein, then Fien should be in the Cutters’ no. 9 jersey. But to play Fien out of position, just to keep him in the first grade side is complete madness.

        • March 18th 2013 @ 9:29am
          Charles NSW said | March 18th 2013 @ 9:29am | ! Report

          I agree with everything you say as it is spot on. Mitch Rein is the best hooker and Cameron King is pressing for the spot as he gets fitter, so Nathan Fien needs to be dropped as far as hooker is concerned. In regards to the 1/2 back position I do not think Fien is up to that task either and I have said that before. The problem is what can the coach do to fix the problem. He has no one with experience, so he has to start grooming Josh Drinkwater so he can be ready now and for the future, it his only chance. If he does that with a lot of support of his team mates it may just work! If he cannot do that then he may have to look at doing something like Soward at 1/2 back and someone like Chase Stanley at 5/8th.

    • March 18th 2013 @ 9:37am
      Pot Stirrer said | March 18th 2013 @ 9:37am | ! Report

      Has there been a dumber play than to push the marker over on the last tackle 1 mtr from the try line

      • Roar Guru

        March 18th 2013 @ 11:01am
        Bazzio said | March 18th 2013 @ 11:01am | ! Report

        It’s a tank move

    • March 18th 2013 @ 10:00am
      planko said | March 18th 2013 @ 10:00am | ! Report

      I will be part of chorus. Think of the future. If they want to not come last keep playing Fien. If they want the next DCE or Reynolds they need to promote a guy who still has improvement. Drinkwater is your man. Btw my 2 cents worth Dugan is not worth 650k

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