• Owen Craigie gives a reviews the past week in rugby (NITV)Source: NITV
Premiership-winning rugby league player and Over the Black Dot co-host Owen Craigie says the current style of play in the NRL is perfect for the next Indigenous stars to join the game’s elite.
Owen Craigie

3 Apr 2018 - 10:27 AM  UPDATED 3 Apr 2018 - 1:38 PM

It’s been such a crazy start to the NRL season and with so many upsets, what that presents is opportunities.

Opportunities for new teams to take control, but it’s also set up perfectly for the next generation of Indigenous stars to stake their claim in the game.


Younger teams, faster legs

What I’ve noticed is that these younger teams, like your Tigers, your Panthers – they’ve got a lot of fresh legs in them.

The Panthers last Thursday have got a young team going up to an old Cowboys and they played all over them.

You’ve also got the Tigers on fire with all these young kids.

You need fresh legs right now. It’s fresh legs driving a lot of these turnarounds.

There’s a big opportunity for teams in the NRL at the moment, and the style of football presents a real opportunity for the next generation of stars to be the game’s elite.

Our Indigenous boys can adapt to any style of football. It’s proven and it’s shown, and we’ve found a lot of good young Indigenous players coming through now like your Latrell Mitchells. But it’s shaping up to be an Indigenous style of football. 

The Koori Knockout, for example, is played in a similar way: quick play the ball, attack, attack, attack and kick to the corners. It's perfect for these Indigenous boys to play this style of football because over the years we've always been known as great attackers.

You look at all the past superstars, they're all renowned for their attack and scoring tries and creating stuff. You look at players like Greg Inglis and Dane Gagai and for example, Cody Walker is killing this style of football. Killing it.

Now’s the time for guys like Dane Gagai, Latrell Mitchell and James Roberts. The game is perfect for them right now.

There’s quick play the ball, early ball - bang.

And that’s one thing the Rabbitohs will end up doing. If they’re not having quick play the balls, they’re not giving Dane Gagai and Greg Inglis early ball.

The Roosters are doing it. That’s why Latrell’s touching the ball once every six tackles now, so it’s great to see.

It’s the perfect opportunity for some of these Indigenous boys to stand up and make a good mark. Especially the way the game is now, around a fast play the ball and a quick attacking game.

There’s also a real opportunity for one of these teams to take control of the early part of the season and one of the teams to do that is St George Dragons.

They’ve got a new side and some young blokes in there. Jack De Belin’s becoming a senior player now and they’re just muscling up in defence.

A lot of these young kids now, the young centres Euan Aitken and Tim Lafai, the fullback Matt Dufty and also Nene McDonald, they’re just fresh legs. They’re not outplaying teams, they’re just outmuscling them with their fitness, their defence line, their speed, their attack – it’s good to see.

The teams that adapt to this new style really quickly are going to be the most successful teams. But the reason it’s not working for the Cowboys and the Storm and Cronulla, because those teams, they specialised in the wrestle and winning the arm wrestle and controlling the ruck.

That’s why their clubs and those teams have been successful over the last period of dominance, because they control the ruck, they hold them down, they’ve got the chicken wing in there, they wrestle them down.

But these younger players, they’re want speed, they want a quick game.

If you’ve got fresh legs and can keep up with the game, you’re going to be successful like, as mentioned before, your Panthers, like your Tigers and like your Dragons. It shows and it’s showing.

But the opportunity’s now. These young guys coming through, if you’re fast and if you’re fit and strong, this game is made for you. This is the era and this is the game for you.

If you’re fast and if you’re fit and strong, this game is made for you. This is the era and this is the game for you.

No one really worries too much about their defence anymore, it’s more an attacking style of footy we’re playing and the refs obviously are giving away penalties because they want a fast style of football.

So if you can adapt to that, you’re laughing. Especially the smaller blokes. It’s an era now for the smaller, steppy and fast guys.

Before it was hold the ruck, dominate, big hits, control. Now you can have a quick play the ball, scoot and you’re gone.

Now’s the time for one of the teams to take charge, and the Dragons is that team.


Who can match the Dragons?

I thought the Roosters were red hot, but the Roosters looked like they played their grand final against Newcastle in round three, because the other night against the Warriors, they weren’t even in it.

I’m interested to see who can match it with the Dragons now. The St George Illawarra Dragons are currently the benchmark of the competition.

Ben Hunt’s in great form and Gareth Widdop; they remind me of a team playing in the 90s. They remind me of Matthew and Andrew Johns, playing from one side of the oval to the other, using their passing game, using their attacking game, and then they’re opening up the defence line, and their forwards are having a field day – De Belin and Paul Vaughn up the middle. And their defence is bone-rattling defence.

If they keep that up, they’re going to be very hard to beat. They’re going to win a lot of games this year, and they’re exciting to watch.

I’m a staunch Newcastle, Wests Tigers and Rabbitohs man – my previous clubs – but I love watching the Dragons playing now because they’re going to to go from one side of the oval to the other in one or two passes.


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