The growth in fantasy gaming and online gambling in recent years, while not necessarily a good thing, has correlated with advances in statistical analysis and modelling in rugby league.
Part 1 examined the role of a coach in producing excellent results on the field. Part 2 seeks to examine the role of players in a team and the value they add to their respective sides.
The old saying goes ‘there is no I in team’. Every single player is responsible for their actions during the game that contributes to the win.
These days, the players are also responsible for their behaviour off the field as that behaviour often affects the players’ performances on the field. Three ways in which players can directly impact the excellence of a team include perspiration, representation, and presentation.
An excellent side relies on players that work hard. Regardless of the amount of talent that a player has, they must work hard to get the best out of that talent.
Johnathan Thurston, regarded as too small at the Bulldogs, became one of rugby league’s greatest ever halfbacks through the constant work he would put in training session after training session, often kicking goals and practicing kicks long after the other players had left.
Players like these with immense work ethics are key to producing excellent sides regardless of the level of talent those players have.
An excellent side has players who are proud to represent that side. One of the reasons that most sports work is because there is an element of pride to pull on that side’s jersey whether at club or international level. Some do it for the lure of playing for that side or country.
Matisse Thybulle, a recently minted Australian Boomer, spoke recently of the pride he felt when wearing the jersey and representing the country of his birth.
Sometimes, players want to play under various coaches. Jaydn Su’A, most recently of the South Sydney Rabbitohs, has been very open about the fact that he moved to Souths to play under Wayne Bennett.
The lure of money is, for some, the reason to represent their clubs with players like Aaron Finch having played for seven different Indian Premier League franchises. Regardless of the reasons, a player must want to represent a side and do it proud to make it an excellent side.
A player’s presentation significantly impacts a side’s excellence. No, this is not about how many bad hairdos they sport during the season or whether they have had new arm sleeves tattooed on. Presentation is about how a player performs both on and off the field.
Just ask Paul Vaughan. Prior to his barbecue, the St George Illawarra Dragons looked set to be very competitive and to potentially play in the finals. After the barbecue and the subsequent bans, the Dragons’ on-field performance suffered immensely.
Sometimes, a player does well in one system and does not do so well in another. Randy Moss thrived in the Patriots’ system, but after leaving their system, he did not fare as well in other teams’ systems.
Conversely, Nic Maddinson struggled for game time and confidence playing for the New South Wales Sheffield Shield side. His form turned around dramatically after moving to Victoria and has been near the top of the run scorers in the Shield ever since.
A player’s presentation both on and off the field greatly contributes to a side’s excellence.
There is no time in here to discuss the outliers – sides like the 2007 New England Patriots, the 2005-06 Australian cricket team or the dominant Queensland Maroons sides from 2005-13, but all these sides contained a multitude of players who worked exceptionally hard, were proud to represent their clubs or country and overcame numerous setbacks in the pursuit of dominance.
They are outliers because they contained an extraordinary number of players who were exceptionally good at their respective sports and, in many ways, proved that sometimes an overabundance of talent can trump even the hard work and skill put in by other coaches and sides.
These sides are once-in-a-generation sides and their achievements should be celebrated when they arise, but all excellent sides have the same three things as their base: hard work, pride in the jersey and well-drilled skills on and off the field.