Hi Hunter. I know you’re busy training but just a quick word before the game.
By the way, how’s the cold wet English weather treating you? I imagine being away from your wife and new born baby is rough, and we all know English food on the road is stodgy and dodgy at best. No wonder the empire fell apart heh!
Just out of curiosity, how are you feeling about the Scotland game? My guess is if you’re honest you know it wasn’t your best game. And there’s a lot of calls from the Roar community to have you replaced, which understandably may be getting you down.
You certainly didn’t lack effort or intensity, but do you think you may have been too gung ho? You see while those two attributes are great characteristics for an athlete, so is accuracy. And unless effort and intensity are accurately directed, they can become detrimental to performance. Almost a two steps forward and three steps back for a net loss, which seemed to be the general appraisal of your efforts last Sunday.
That overzealous clean out past the ruck that wiped off Tom Wright’s try, the grubber that didn’t pierce the line, the lost ball in possession and the missed ‘missile’ tackle on Stuart Hogg overshadowed your great defence, Ali Price tackle and pilfer.
You have of course heard of the saying “less is more”. Might I suggest respectfully that you look to tone your intensity down about 10 per cent to increase your accuracy by 30 per cent or more.
Back on March 22 this year, the Canberra Times ran an article on you after you scored two tries against the Western Force. I’ll remind you what was said. I hope they quoted you accurately.
“Sonny and (former New Zealand No.12 Ma’a) Nonu; them together as a combination was pretty deadly, both liked to run hard and I’m just trying to be like them and hopefully achieve some of that.”
“Coming in fresh at the Reds it was the basics first and Thorny’s advice in the first trial game was to ‘run hard, hit hard’.
“Now I can find a bit of balance there … and I am getting better and better with my communication.”
So being a man proud of your Samoan heritage, and having heroes like Ma’a Nonu and Sonny Bill Williams, and with that advice from Brad Thorn, I can understand why you play the way you do. And having an Instagram follow from Sonny Bill would be any young athlete’s dream.
But Hunter, two of the key words in your last quote are ‘balance’ and ‘communication’. And those two attributes, as well as intensity and accuracy will be greatly needed against England this Saturday.
Just for comparison Tim Horan, one of Australia’s greatest players who played No 12 like you, was not a crash ball warrior like your Samoan idols, yet achieved great success and longevity in the game because of his attacking prowess, formidable defence and playmaking ability. He had a magnificent step off both feet and had electrifying pace.
If you would like a reminder, here’s a clip of his exploits: Tim Horan – The Linebreaker.
So Hunter, I’d like you to consider something. At 5 feet 8 inches and 90 kgs, you’re not Ma’a Nonu nor SBW. And rather than being a smaller guy trying to play as a bigger guy, why not play to your strengths and do your core skills well instead of trying to overplay your hand and be a wrecking ball like Big Kev, which again you’re not.
Enough of what you’re not. Here’s what you are in my observation: a dedicated, committed, hard-running and hard-tackling centre who can step, run good lines like your back of the lineout run against the French for AK to score, and kick off both feet with growing skill.
And you want to do well for the country, your team, your Australian and Samoan family and your new baby. I get it. You want them to be proud of you as you’ve come a long way.
You’ve got Manu Tuilagi running at you on Saturday. And at over 6 feet and 110kgs, that’s a size and weight mismatch. But what you lack in size you make up for in heart. And Dave Rennie would have told you that defence wins matches. So your major job for the Game 1’d say is to contain Manu.
However if you fly at him like you did Stuart Hogg, even the smallest miscalculation could mean a no arms tackle to the head and a Red Card which would put your team under immense pressure. Hence my request to take it down a notch and hit with accuracy and intensity.
Yes let him know you mean business, but aim to stop him and the ball rather than cut him in two heh bro?
By all means bring your strong game but bring your smart game too for your sake and the team. Run around brick walls rather than into them.
Only grubber if the gap is there. Kick over the defence rather than through it and let the ball do the work, especially if it’s wet. Run angles, set up for inside passes off James O’Connor and swap places with Len to mix it up. You’d do much better running through Henry Slade than Manu.
All the best for Saturday Hunter. Whatever happens, enjoy yourself and let others be the star. Just do the basics well and cement your place in the team and you will make those who believe in you proud.
There is still so much time ahead of you. Remember baby steps forward are better than big steps backwards. Go well mate.