If the first few weeks of the NRL season have shown anything, it is how important a team’s kicking game can be in controlling the game from the halves.
As teams install their structures of play and new combinations, we have seen that teams with effective kicking games have had the best results.
In week one, Melbourne Storm’s Cameron Munster constantly turned around the Broncos, making them come out of the corners and capped that off with a try kick. Meanwhile, the control and accuracy of Blake Green’s kicking also wore down the Bulldogs with centimetre-perfect try kicks.
The Rabbitohs’ Adam Reynolds is the cream of the crop and on Thursday night again proved the importance of his kicking game.
South Sydney was shaken by the Dragons’ intensity in the first half.
Its half-back was put under immense pressure on last plays and Reynolds’ kick quality was greatly compromised.
But in the second 40 minutes, on the back of some go-forward, Reynolds was able to turn the momentum back in Souths’ favour.
His long kicks started to find the ground in the corners, and then two grubbers for repeat sets saw the energy battle start to swing back towards his team.
The grubber he put through for Braidon Burns was perfect and was the play that asserted Souths ultimate control.
Interestingly, if you were to look at the difference in key stats – time in possession, completion rates, metres run, tackles made and missed – there was only 3 per cent difference between the teams in all these areas.
The really smart coaches understand that team continuity and entrenching new systems of play is something that takes at least four to five rounds to build in your men.
This sees most coaches focus on the foundations of a solid kicking game early in the season. A month out from Round 1, attention would have turned from new structures to honing the kick-and-chase game.
It’s not difficult to see the teams that have taken this approach.
Look for where the teams are making their opponents start sets, and look if they choose to kick earlier in the set so their half isn’t under the same pressure.
Watch also how the good teams mix up their kickers to allow for more time and accuracy in execution.
It gives a whole new meaning to kick-starting your season in search for momentum.
Former St George player Matthew Elliott has coached NRL teams Canberra, Penrith and New Zealand Warriors.