The tenth lock in my series is none other than big Brodie Retallick.
As a reminder, I selected tighthead locks to study, an entire Test at a time: grading each involvement as positive, neutral, or negative.
As internationals, only distinctive actions rated as positive: a stolen lineout, a clean break over the gainline, a big smash tackle, a turnover, a cleanout of a latched David Pocock, a cover tackle of a back, or a restart in traffic.
Merely proper rucking, carrying, or lineout claims are just neutral.
A lost lineout may or may not be a negative, I look at the throw and lift. The ultimate outcome of an action is ignored: even if a lineout is stolen and the scrumhalf drops it, it is still positive.
I studied locks because they are easy to spot, and they stay in the frame more than other positions. Also, their core jobs deviate little. This is a look at ‘what can be,’ as when you hit two balls from the tee on every hole and take the best: it shows you what your potential is.
It is not a statistical sample (yet), but it is revealing. \Some locks (Rob Simmons) show you why he is not a star (not enough P\positives), but also why he is a centurion (no negatives at all in the Test I watched).
Busiest: Bakkies Botha (1.1 involvements per minute), James Ryan (0.95/min), Maro Itoje (0.93) and Matt Philip (0.84/min).
Most positive percentage: Guido Petti (42.5 per cent), Ryan (38 per cent), Botha (35per cent), and Philip (32per cent).
Least negatives: Simmons (zero per cent), Botha and Philip (one per cent), Petti (two per cent), and Ryan (2.5 per cent).
Enter the Guzzler.
I ran the ruler over Retallick’s performance in Bledisloe One in 2018. His style was the most distinctive of the ten I’ve studied.
Retallick mans the outside channel on defence easily. He plays pivot in the deep phases. He distributes.
In this test, won by New Zealand 38-13, after a tight first half, Retallick laid down a 0.93/minute involvement rate (same as Itoje’s 2019 semifinal masterpiece). But more notably, he had 39 per cent positives and one per cent negative, and probably was the most influential player on the pitch. His opponent locks, Adam Coleman and Isaak Rodda, simply could not hang with him.
Here is what Retallick did, divided by eight ten-minute chukkas.
First chukka (ten involvements)
Positives: Retallick ran Israel Folau down, pilfered and stopped a Wallaby red zone attack at 01:25 and cleanly stole two Aussie red zone lineouts at 03:45 and 04:20, causing Wallaby wobbles the rest of the match.
Neutral: Retallick contested a lineout, attended two rucks, carried in a settler at 02:30, pressured an exit and tackled another Wallaby back.
Three minutes of play were lost to scrum resets and a penalty setup.
Second chukka (eight involvements)
Positive: Retallick covered so much ground in this chukka. He carried over the gain line at 12:35, creating quick ball and a penalty. He tracked back 25 m to clean for Beauden Barrett. He reversed a Rodda carry with a textbook crash tackle.
Neutral: He cleaned for his team, rucked hard, won a two-handed lineout, tackled Coleman, and tackled a back.
Third chukka (13 involvements)
Retallick was hyperactive in this stretch.
Positive: He cleaned big at 23:01 after a 30 m run, and then, 15 seconds later and another 30 m away, cleaned out again. Oh, and then got to the wing to clean again, at 23:30. He pressured a Wallaby kick, creating an All Black lineout only ten metres out. He carried five hard metres to the 3-metre line.
Neutral: Retallick nearly stole a lineout at 20:54, won an easy lineout, attended a ruck at 23:40, smashed Will Genia (he’s a halfback, so it’s just neutral), steered a 26:00 maul after winning the ball and repeated this (lineout plus maul) at 27:50.
Fourth chukka (seven involvements)
As most of our locks have, Retallick tired a bit at the end of the half.
Positive: Retallick played pivot twice, in midfield, feeding Ben Smith into a gap and putting Liam Squire into space, at 31:20.
Neutral: He carried, made simple passes at 31:57 and 38:01 and attended a ruck.
Negative: Retallick knocked on as he placed the ball, not held, and tried to go again, at 35:20.
At the half, down 5-6, the All Blacks made good adjustments, and they paid dividends.
Fifth chukka (12 involvements)
Positive: He intercepted a Wallaby attack. He tackled Reece Hodge in space at 44:50. He stole another lineout.
Neutral: Retallick made his mark at five rucks. He contested a lineout. He tackled Dane Haylett-Petty. He cleaned accurately and carried well.
Sixth chukka (eight involvements)
The All Blacks took a 19-6 lead in this part.
Positive: Retallick contributed a big tackle and yet another lineout steal at the 59th minute.
Neutral: He won a lineout, made a good pass at 50:15, attended two rucks, drove a maul and pressed a kick.
Seventh chukka (seven involvements)
Positive: Retallick collected a loose ball, tackled Genia ball and all, counter-rucked and at 64:50, caught the ball and set up a break. At 62:20, after winning the turnover, Retallick led a break, dummied Bernard Foley and ran in a 40 m try. He won another turnover.
Neutral: He got to another ruck.
Eighth chukka (seven involvements)
The play became so loose, the packs sort of wandered around.
Positive: He killed a Wallaby maul, snaffled a loose ball, stole another lineout and caught a pass in traffic, busting Foley’s tackle, at 78:30.
Neutral: He defended a maul, caught and passed the ball in one movement, contested and slowed a ball without being pinged and made it to two more rucks.
Retallick played all 80 minutes.
His chukka rate was steady: 10-8-13-7-12-8-7-9. He had 29 positive actions and only one knock-on.
Corné van Vuuren (Biltongbek) observed most of us watch a match fixated on the big and horrendous moments, not focused on one player.
A modern coach watches a player for 80 minutes, then another.
Retallick is a phenomenal player, awkward in the best ways.