Lama Tasi is regarded as “the one that got away” by the Manly Sea Eagles. He’s a hard runner and destructive tackler who could probably get by on those attributes alone.
But the Roosters last year had a noticeable lack of ball skill in the forwards.
They didn’t have a single player in the top 20 in the NRL in offloads; even little Ben Barba managed to rank up there. What little offloads we had often were thrown for the sake of throwing them and didn’t necessarily add to the flow of whatever attacking plan Smithy had conceivably come up with (if any).
You could notice the difference when someone like Brad Takairangi came on; there was some improvisation on the fringes and the Roosters looked dangerous. Of course, Smithy used Taka about as regularly as Lance Armstrong made apologies.
Lama Tasi was used primarily as a ram-rod, as were most of the Roosters’ front-rowers, while teams such as the bulldogs exploited the tactic of passing before the line to keep defences guessing. Whether the Roosters used this ram-rod tactic because of a distinct lack of skill or because Brian Smith coached the forwards to hit it up and leave the skill to the backs is guesswork at this stage.
But an interview with Lama Tasi in the Queensland Times put a smile on the dial. Here’s the snippet I enjoyed most:
Tasi is very much a stand-and-deliver type of player, loving the shoulder charge and preferring to run straight at defenders.
But knows he has to broaden his game to succeed and is working on it accordingly.
“It just means I’ve got to work on the wrestle a bit more,” he said of his tackling technique.
“I’m also working on tipping the ball before the line, instead of just tucking it under my wing and running.”
This is good news for not just the Roosters but for Tasi’s career. For the Roosters, it means they’ll have a versatile weapon off the bench to rest JWH and Martin Kennedy, assuming he develops this pass-at-the-line ability at a decent level and assuming Tasi doesn’t usurp Kennedy’s spot in the process. The Chooks already had a decent front row pairing, but could have a very strong front-row rotation with Tasi’s development in this area.
From an attacking movement standpoint, if someone like Tasi can pass at the line behind a decoy runner, that means someone like a Sonny-Bill Williams will recieve the ball deeper out wide and have more room ala what the ‘Dogs did last year.
Tasi looking to develop this part of his game points directly at coach Trent Robinson and his potential plans for attacking movements this season — no front-rower looks to develop a passing game without some prodding or some rhyme to the reasoning.
For Tasi, it means that the fading of one skill (the shoulder charge) is replaced by another, more relevant, skill. His development lapsed last year and who we saw in 2011 wasn’t quite who we saw in 2012. A passing game is what he needs to add to take the next step, and if he develops it at such an early stage of his NRL career then he can expect not only to get another contract from the Roosters, but a multi-year one to boot.
He already had a wealth of talent and a shit-tonne of promise. If he can add some skill to that front line, then the Roosters will be more than a physically imposing forward pack this year: they’ll be a force.