With the vultures now circling the Tahs season this year and the team showing no signs of improvement from week one, I thought I would give Coach Chris Hickey a plan to re-build the Tahs’ waning fortunes.
Sure the Tahs still sit near the top of the table but any realistic appraisal of their performances this year surely shows that they won’t be for too much longer if they continue to meander through games.
They are performing well at the scrum and line-out however the problem lies with them not being able to turn this domination into either sustained pressure or points. What the Tahs’ forwards are not doing is providing a link between themselves and the backline.
The Tahs only have one ball-runner, Cliffy Palu, and let’s face it, he isn’t the type of player who likes to run wide. In other Australian teams, the flankers are the link, think Smith, Pocock and Higginbotham, they are constantly running at the opposition around the 2nd or 3rd defensive channel, creating breaks and/or providing quick ruck ball.
What needs to be done is for Mumm to move back to the 2nd row and let either Mowen or new signing Luke Doherty play the number six. These guys are ball runners who can get wide and find gaps in midfield. This lack of link play was glaring obvious last night when Luke Burgess found gaps and took off only for the movement to fizzle out due to a lack of primary support. Phil Waugh has never been that sort of support player so it is unrealistic to think that he can adjust his game to fill this role.
This is where major surgery is needed.
Firstly tell Luke Burgess to forget about both the short-side and finding forwards for hit ups and to start distributing the ball. All too often promising situations are wasted by giving the ball to a tight forward who trucks it up to yet another ruck. Start giving this ball some air and see what the Tahs backs can do when the opposition defence is on the back foot.
Give Portley and rest for a few weeks and let Sam Two-Dads run the show. It is apparent now that Two-Dads provides at least some spark and is able to throw a decent pass to his outside backs, something Portley cannot. Most telling is when Tahs try and go wide from first phase, Two-Dads is the architect, not Beale.
Bring Hangers into number 12, give the Tahs two ball playing options like the Reds have with Barnes and Cooper. Hangers showed last night with his first touch of the ball that he can take the line on, get through it, and then have the skills to off-load. The monster, crash ball inside centre option isn’t working so why keep changing around Carter and TimTam in the hope that it might?
Lote into outside centre. Although he has been found out playing this spot before, he is by far the most destructive of the Tahs backline and needs the ball. Bring him into the centres and let him work off either Two-Dads or Hangers. The fact he made nearly 15% (66mtrs out of 445mtrs) of all running metres gained by the Tahs against the Saders, proves the more you get the ball to him, the better off the team will be.
Lachie Turner to full-back. He will provide a legitimate counter attack option and perhaps give opposing teams pause for thought before they kick the ball to the Tahs. Lachie is a busy player who seems the only one at the moment who is interested in making the effort to get into an attacking position.
TimTam to the wing. He’s not a centre, he needs space to wind up to full pace and maybe on the end of a revamped Tahs backline he would get that space. If he was prepared to make the effort and link with Turner from fullback, things would start happening for him.
On the other wing should be Peter Playford, he is a good solid player who can provide cover for Lachie at fullback and let him tear off on his dynamic bursts.
So that’s it, instead of the current death march to another unfulfilled season, implement the Cote plan and at least provide some entertainment, and maybe some wins into the bargain.
One thing is for sure, Ewen McKenzie was boned last season because of the perceived lack of endeavour by the Tahs. This wouldn’t fill Chris Hickey with any kind of confidence that he will see out his full contract the way the Tahs are currently playing – particularly with the Machiavellian Michael Foley waiting in the wings.
If you’re going down, at least go down swinging.