One of the more exciting things to watch during the 2014 NRL season is how Sam Tomkins plays in his first season in the NRL. While his performances at the Auckland 9’s were mixed, we now have a full game played in anger on which we can review Tomkins play.
So, how did Sam Tomkins go in his first game for the New Zealand Warriors against the Parramatta Eels in the NRL?
Early on Sam showed some promising signs. Playing at fullback, his footwork was good and he wasn’t hesitant to get into the Warriors back line and do a bit of playmaking.
One thing Sam has always been good at is knowing when to pass the ball while in the back line. That came through in this match where he played a key role in a couple of the Warriors back line plays that lead directly to tries.
Whether it be a long cut out pass that is needed or a short ball, he showed that natural instinct that has always made me feel he is more of a five-eighth rather than a fullback.
When the Warriors went for set plays in attack the Eels were ready for them. They really targeted Tomkins, rushing a defender out of the defensive line to shut him down as he received the ball. That can be a dangerous game to play against certain players. Darren Lockyer in particular was one player that would make a team pay for rushing out of the line at him.
Tomkins problem here is his size. He is very light, I dare say he will be the lightest player in every single game he plays this season. That means that when defenders got a hand on him he wasn’t able to bump them off or break the tackle. This allowed the Eels to shut down set plays in which Tomkins was the key ball player.
Overall in attack Tomkins did pretty well. While he didn’t make any breaks of his own he showed he can make space for his team mates. He will get better as time goes on and he works out where he needs to be and what he needs to watch for in opposition defensive lines.
When the Warriors were playing defense things were a little different…
Playing at fullback, Tomkins was a little out of position a few times during the match. Once again, give him time and he will sort that out.
As the Eels got on a role Tomkins was called on to shut down a few players who had broken the line, and he tended to struggle. It’s hard to blame him. Most players heading his way had 20-30 kilos on him.
Under the high ball he struggled, dropping a couple of bombs. He is going to be targeted in the NRL by every single team under the high ball. If he keeps dropping bombs and giving up tries I think we will see him moved into five-eighth and defending on the wing. NRL fullbacks simply can’t make a habit of dropping high balls, the cost is way too great in a competition that is so even.
The Warriors lost the game 36-16 but in all honesty the margin of victory should have been much wider. That needs to be taken into account when rating Tomkins performance. He certainly wasn’t the worst player in their side, but he was one of many that contributed to a very disappointing performance from the Auckland based team.
Personally I saw enough to suggest he can because a very valuable player for the Warriors. I hope that he gets the coaching he needs to make that happen though. Tomkins looked like what he was, a young player stepping up to NRL level. He isn’t the finished product and he has a lot to learn. He has improvement in him and I think as the season goes on and he adds a bit of size he will get better in attack and defense.
So one game down and it’s on to next week. I will review his performances as the season goes on. Let’s hope as time goes on these reviews get better and better!