Thursday, January 11, 2007

An ongoing battle: style v consistency

Well first let me say that this is going to be the last post on this blog about Sione for sometime. Frankly the amount of column inches the guy has gotten lately you would think he had actually won something. I am not a fan of fame for fames sake. However Sione has certainly got me thinking.

My thinking began as I worked my way through a little side project - developing a definition of the term Brain Explosion, my efforts so far as follows:

Brain Explosion

1. An inexplicable individual act or play during an NRL match without the apparent exercise of reasoned judgement; or

2. Bizarre or inexplicable individual behaviour without the apparent exercise of reasoned judgement in the private life or contract dealings of an NRL player.

Whilst working on this (for hours I can assure you) it occurred to me that there is a key distinction here - brain explosions in the outside world are generally negative whilst brain explosions on the field of play only become brain explosions if they have negative consequences. Let me compare a couple of examples:

1. Carlos Spencer's decision to pass into the hands of the on rushing Stirling Mortlock who scored under the posts as a result during the 2003 world cup semi-final - undoubted brain explosion - negative impact

2. Sione Faumauina's decision to kick-pass the ball cross-field towards the far touchline into the hands of the onrushing Francis Meli to score one of five trys vs the Bulldogs in the 2003 NRL semi-finals - if this decision had it not worked out perfectly would be considered a brain explosion - it was totally original and unexpected

3. After a 70m line busting break Ali Lauitiiti elects to pass the ball one handed behind his back to onrushing Stacey Jones who scores under the posts v the Broncoes during the 2002 (?) season - again had this play not worked out perfectly this would be considered a brain explosion - if the ball had gone to ground rather than to hand it would have been a waste of a game winning chance to score

So lets recap - a brain explosion is something more than a questionable exercise of judgement - it becomes a brain explosion when it is proven to be a stupid mistake by virtue of the outcome of the play. And there is something deeper at stake here - if we look at points 2 and 3 above - these were memorable Warriors plays notable for their skill, finesse, originality and style. Yes I say style because the Warriors have been at battle with themselves for many years on just this issue - style and finesse play v straightforward consistent percentages play.

A player like Sione typifies this for me. Without wanting to toot my own horn at the outset of last years season I noted the decision to appoint Sione as Warriors no 6. could be a poor one - in particular because the Warriors might benefit from the stability and predictability of a more vanilla playmaker. Enter Rovelli and I am proved right. This doesn't take away from or deny Sione's talent for making the amazing play - it just recognises that the NRL is about wins and wins requires consistency over a season rather than just flashes of brilliance. Toopi and the Hotstepper could be seen as casualties of the same issue - style v consistency.

Cleary's challenge - and its the same challenge that all Warriors coaches have faced - is to harness the innate style and finesse that this squad has and mould it into consistent performances. There is a time and a place for style and it is on your opponents 10m line with the ball in hand on the 4th tackle. No one wants to see the originality and spontaneity of this squad coached out of the side - ala Mark Graham's tenure - we want to see solid percentages play that produces chances that are then finished with finesse and style. Players like Webb and Koopu typify the ideal Warriors player to me - solid and consistent but with the capability to produce an original or finesse play when the moment requries it.

There is no arguing that this is a rant - the internal tangents and contradictions of my argument are apparent to me as well - but I have looked back over the last few posts and it occurs to me that I have been revelling in the derision of Sione's bizarreness when it is just this quality that endears me to his play on the league field. If the man could harness his talent through hard work and application and then perform consistently he would deserve the coverage he has gotten. Just don't do it against the Warriors Sione - I can't handle the pain of anymore ex-Warrriors dishing out on the boys.


the hoff said...

matty its the whole class versus arse debate brought into the modern age.

Theres not a lot I can add to this discussion as I tend to agree with most of your points and I would just be re-hashing in a less eloquent manner.

I do find it disappointing however that many warriors continue to try the impossioble year after year when the pressure gets to them. Yes, it *can* win games, but it can also lead to 30 point blowouts which ultimately saps morale.

Maybe, *maybe* one day if we get players the calibre of those in the NBA who happen to play league then the sort of 'brain explosion' play will become expected but that day is not yet upon us.

The good news is that I believed there was a fair degree more steel in the warriors forward pack last year, less silly passes, more grinding up the middle. The backline remains uninspiring however (even more so with the disappearance of Webby).
I'm hoping Stacey's pay packet will enable the Warriors to recruit or develop a genuine star to lead the backline and build on the work the forwards have been putting in.

Matty the blog is looking better and better by the way, keep up the good work this year.

Charlton said...

League, is an Aussie game. It was made up by them, same goes with cricket.

There is something innate with Aussies with league. Australia produces great league players of class, not sometimes, like in NZ, the example of Stacy Jones, but all the time. Current crop; Darren Lockyer, Andrew Johns, Jonathan Thurston, Mark Gasiner... Each Australian NRL team has a great. Warriors has Price, but he's an Aussie. We need a great that is a Kiwi. To insipre the hearts and blood of the nation that has a long white cloud over it all the time that brings rain everyday almost where Sydney is in a severe drought! Not I digress.

League is a everyday thing in Oz. In NZ, it plays second fiddle to the almighty Blacks.

If we can get the little Kiwi kids to run around play the ball under them when they get tackled, and to not push in scrums, we might brew some greats of our own.

Anonymous said...

i had just stumbled over the style vs consistency thing to do with the fancy choices that are often silly than practical.

however, these unnatural things that happen in games are what keep people in watching sport everyday.

spencers pass to mortlock was not intentional obviously. that was a dumb comment

faumuina has brain explosions all the time but the thing that annoys people the most is the fact he stuffs things up all the time and the chances he takes dont really have an awesome outcome.

but its those aspects of sport that make people come back to watch seeing if they will stuff up if they will drop the ball or if something unconventional happens in the game.

thats just sport.

showmanship is awesome.