Desperate NRL Coaches Hurting The Development Of Young Halfbacks

In a recent discussion on the Fergo and The Freak NRL Podcast we talked about the South Sydney halfback situation and the future of Lachlan Ilias at the club.

Ilias is just 23 years old, he has already got 53 first grade games under his belt, and he has had a pretty solid start to his career.

Halfbacks generally take much longer to develop compared to players in other positions. They have so much responsibility, and need many years to learn the game, learn their craft, and that takes time and investment by a club.

Even Nathan Cleary, the best halfback in the game, is still learning. Over the last 18 months you have been able to see him adding things to his game, becoming more comfortable taking over when it is needed, learning when to step back and just trust his team mates, learning what kick is ideal in the right situation….and he STILL has a long way to go to become the player he will eventually be.

Clearly has found himself in the PERFECT situation, under the right coach, with the right background and Rugby League pedigree, with the right mindset, they right amount of commitment, and he is still learning.

Very few halfbacks get any of that.

It is always exciting when a club debuts a young halfback into first grade. You never know where their career will take them. Will this young player be the halfback that turns into a champion? Will he guide the team around the park for the next decade? Who knows?

The problem is, most coaches don’t have the time to wait for a young halfback to develop.

How many coaches are at a club for longer than 6 years? How many coaches can miss the finals for a few years in a row and go into a performance review and say “Trust me, in 4 years from now we could have a halfback that will get us to the finals”?

Coaches under pressure need instant results. They need something they can point to as a change you can see right now, not a promise for the future.

That means that we are seeing young halfbacks debut in the NRL, and all to soon many of them are cast aside as not having “It” before they’ve even really got a chance to learn the game at all.

Lachlan Ilias, Toby Sexton, Jake Clifford, Jock Madden…the list of young halfbacks who were not given enough time to develop as players is a fairly decent one.

Young halfbacks are going to make mistakes. They are going to take the wrong option. They are going to have quiet games. They are going to have games where they try too hard and nothing works out for them. They are going to mis-time kicks, they are going to throw wild passes, they are going to miss tackles….and it is all part of the learning curve.

Nathan Cleary did all of those things. So did Dally Cherry-Evans. Andrew Johns did it. They all do it. It is part of learning to become a halfback in the NRL.

So when I see a young halfback who has a decent amount of games under their belt being dropped by their coach, I just see a coach trying to save their job. I see panic. I see a halfback whose development has been halted.

Sometimes young halfbacks find their way back into first grade. Sometimes they leave for another club and get another chance. The game however needs to have a real think about how we develop young halfbacks, because too many of them are becoming scapegoats for coaches needing to save their jobs.

Liked it? Take a second to support League Freak on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!

Leave a Reply