Which NRL Team has the strongest pair of pivots? Mortimer and Lamb? Langer and Walters? Stuart and Daley? And of course who can forget Sterling and Kenny?
Strongest Pair of Pivots
It’s never an exact science. In the modern game most people talk about a good ‘spine’ rather than your halves pairing. But there is something about a good halves pairing that makes an average team good and a good team great.
You only have to look at the 2015 Grand Final. One of the best Grand Finals in recent years in which the Cowboys and Broncos both had a common thread.
Two pivots with an innate understanding of each other’s game. A combination that lasted all season.
In the final 15 seconds with the Cowboys down by four, Thurston got the ball 30 out from his own line stepped outside a defender and went looking for one man and one man only, his partner in crime Michael Morgan. Morgan found space, then he found Kyle Feldt and the rest as they say is history.
In season 2017, if teams want to go deep into September, they will need that special mix of ball player and ball runner. One who controls the ruck and one who plays ‘off the cuff’.
Of the big hitters in this year’s NRL Telstra Premiership, 4 teams have the combinations that could send them all the way.
The Cowboys – (Thurston and Morgan)
The one thing Thurston and Morgan have going for them is time at the crease. They have been together for a few years now and as mentioned above in 2015 they went all the way.
They play a little different to most sides in that Thurston will switch sides of the ruck and sometimes link with Morgan in a more traditional manner. The key to their pairing this year is Morgan. With Thurston at the back end of his career, Morgan needs to get himself more involved in the game and take more kicks in general play and call a few more attacking runs
The Sharks (Townsend and Maloney)
It’s an interesting mix at the Sharks. Generally the senior player in a pairing is the player who controls the ruck. Not at the Sharks. Maloney is an exceptional ball running five eighth. But if you look at his stats, Maloney has won Premierships at two clubs, played for NSW and Australia, and racked up a stack of points along the way.
Townsend has a mile of confidence for a young halfback and has no trouble taking control of the side. He always seems to take the best option and when that option is to find Maloney and let him cut up defenders left and right, it’s a great sight.
The Raiders (Austin and Sezer)
Last year was a breakout year for Austin and Sezer. Austin came on in leaps and bounds. By the end of the year he was one of the most feared ball running five eighths in the competition. All the while Sezer was able to fly under the radar a bit. When everyone was talking about Pearce, Thurston and Hunt. Sezer just went along week to week executing the game plan Stuart had put together for them.
This year they are firmly on everyone’s radar and they will be on the whiteboard in every dressing room under the heading “shut these two down”. For Sezer it is about trying to stay out of the limelight and continuing to work on his already solid passing and kicking game. For Austin it will be about knowing when to run and not overplaying his hand. The thing that the best players in the game have in common is what they do off the ball is just as dangerous as what they do on the ball. In 2017 when Austin chooses not to run, it’s more important than when he actually runs.
The Roosters (Pearce and Keary)
They have only been together for about the same amount of time as Mal Meninga’s political career, but if you were to quote Forrest Gump they go together like “Peas and Carrots”. Keary has had no trouble fitting into the Roosters system and is linking up with the ever maturing Mitchell Pearce like they have played together for over a decade. Pearce ever maligned has unfortunately been the NSW scapegoat for the last 5 years but it wouldn’t have mattered who you put against Lockyer, Thurston and Cronk at Origin level. Anyone would come up short.
Unfortunately for Pearce the burden piled up last year and he had to go away to do some soul searching. At Rep level Laurie Daley did Mitchell Pearce the best favour anyone could have done at that point in his career and sat him down from Origin duties. Keary is almost in the same boat. Dumped by South because he couldn’t get on with the CEO. He had to go away and rebuild himself as a player and a man. You put two outlaws together in the same set up and if you apply grade 3 mathematics two negatives equals a positive. The early signs are all very positive.
Pearce is a natural footballer who likes to play football. With Keary taking game plan pressure off him, he can do just that. The Roosters have put together a dangerous list. Pearce at 27 is coming into the prime years of his career and Keary could be the final peace of the puzzle. It’s too early to call it just yet but the Roosters are close to the top of the tip sheet.
by Darrin Seath – contributor