Let�s think of a game of chess for a moment. You have your pawns, your castles, your bishops, your knights and your coveted King and Queen. Each piece is placed on a chessboard where the objectives of all pieces are to protect their King, whilst attacking the other. Through all this the King is responsible for the movement of his troops across the battlefield as he so pleases. His organisational skills will ultimately determine whether he will win or loose a battle. Welcome to the life of a rugby league half back.
Business end of the season tends to bring a lot of �team of the year� discussions along with it. More often then not, �half back of the year� generally gets the most attention and argument in such heated conversations. With the finals series drawing ever so closer, I took the opportunity to try and work this one out, and hopefully in the process will stop people from raiding my inbox with the same dubious question; �Just what separates the elite half backs in the game?�
Gathered with a few of my best mates almost ten months ago, I patiently awaited as the countdown to the grand final kick-off gradually drew to an expiry. I was pumped. And then, literally moments before kick-off, Luke, one of my mates, leant over and asked me, �Who do you think is the best half back in the game?� Indulged in the atmosphere of the national anthem, I opted not to answer, knowing full well a simple �Andrew Johns� reply would have left me at peace to watch the game I had been looking forward to all week.
Unfortunately, and there always is an unfortunately, this question stayed with me the whole night. I sat there, at every break trying to establish a criterion that would help me determine a plausible answer to the equation. I couldn�t do it. Aside from judging on awards and popularity polls, I had no idea what separated the elite. It was at this seemingly frustrating time in the night when Craig Gower took command of the game and his position where all at once, it hit me. The light bulb had switched on and the frown on my faced dropped to a smile having realised I had established the answer to such a fatuous question. Determining the best half back in the game, was all a matter of 'function'.
When the question was first put forward, it was as good as asking which is better Coke or Pepsi? Punk or Pop? Superman, Spiderman or X-Men?
You get the drift. Any dialectical debate of this nature was destined to be a matter of three things; taste, media hype and club allegiance. So it all made sense to conclude that since there is no fair formulae to judge the best half back, why not just make it a matter of that uncharted thing called function.
Andrew Johns is the heart and soul of the Newcastle Knights, albeit even through extensive injury. No one will argue with that, and many will still claim that the Knights are still a one man team despite going virtually the entire season without their marquee player and still being in the hunt for finals honours. Johns bares the burden of leadership in a team where spreading the ball to the wings early in the tackle count, is merely part of an ultimate strategy.
Brent Sherwin is a confidence player. When he is on his game he is a thriller to watch. When he isn�t, well perhaps it�s a good thing he has Braith Anasta standing beside him waving a �get out of jail free� card firm in the air. Stacey Jones, like his New Zealand team mates, is an instinctive player. He is prepared to throw the ball around in an attempt to break the defences� line through small cracks and concentration lapses.
Brett Kimmorley is an organisation master. He has to be really. In a team where creativity has taken a mass transformation over the past few season, it is his job to organise a team that at times can be as ugly as Chelsea Clinton.
So what is this 'function' that makes one player better than the other? Well, let�s go back to the chess game.
Whilst the King does care about his troops, his priority is staying alive and winning the match. If he does not win, he will die and all previous labours prove in vain. For the King to fulfil his role, he must win.
In other words the ultimate 'function' of a half back is to steer his team to premiership victories.
Winning the big one is what it�s all about. Through destiny, it�s the only objective that separates the elite. Whilst Origins, Tests and Awards are all credentials to each player, ultimately the one who is more dominant is he who can �bling bling� more trophies, not awards.
Typically and here�s the twist, because such a function is unstable and generally changes the player rankings year after year, as irony would have it this function is destined to crown a new rugby league legend in the many years to come. And believe you me after such a traumatising night trying to work this one out, I for one, am definitely looking forward to seeing that.
Now, we could mathematically disect this topic into millions of tiny little pieces and logistically place them back one by one with the flawless equation to the problem. When all is said and done though, who does this author consider to be the most dominant half back in the game today? His name; Andrew Johns, and he has two premierships trophies to back it up.
Regards, Jardian Ormsby.
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