The old saying is “if you’re good enough, you’re old enough”.
But when a team is stacked with back-rowers and you’re 20, carrying multiple injuries, is there a need to be rushed into a series of the hardest games ever played?
In an article in The Australian over the weekend, Luke Ricketson and Trent Barrett both made cases for Boyd Cordner’s inclusion in the State of Origin series this year:
“He’s what you like on an (playing) edge in Origin,” Barrett said. “He’s athletic, he can play before the line or in the line. He’s a tough bastard.”
“He wouldn’t be out of place,” said Ricketson.“He’s the type of player that can play for 80 minutes, make all the important tackles, clean up the ruck a little bit. He’s got speed, he’s got fitness, he’s got endurance.”
And with the decomposing of Tony Williams’ game, there’s certainly an open spot for a back-rower off the bench. Luke Lewis, Paul Gallen and Greg Bird have already wrapped up three of the spots, with Trent Merrin, Anthony Watmough, and Ryan Hoffman all in great form early on — especially Watmough and Merrin.
So is Cordner good enough at this early stage of his career to nab one of the vacant two or three spots on the bench?
Lets do a quick comparison with the other contenders for that spot.
2013 Stats (per NRL.com):
Seven games, zero tries, 112 hit-ups at 16 per game, 133 metres per game at 8.4 metres per run, 19 offloads, no line breaks, 32.7 tackles per game, 2.1 missed tackles per game, one error this season.
Pros: Great footwork at the line, can bust through the initial contact, has a great offload and can double as a front-rower off the bench. He’s fit enough too, declaring at the start of the year that he can play 80 minutes at a pinch.
Cons: Not a traditional back-rower, more a hybrid back/front-rower who plays largely up the middle or one wide of the ruck. Can be prone to giving away penalties in the ruck. Not particularly agile in defence.
2013 stats (per NRL.com):
Seven games, two tries, 105 hit-ups at 15 per game, 145 metres per game at 9.7 metres per run, 15 offloads, three line breaks, 34.2 tackles per game, 0.9 missed tackles per game, eight errors this season.
Pros: Can go 80 minutes, can bump through the line for breaks, solid in defence when focused, dangerous running angles. The quickest second-rower in the league in space, and extremely agile. Has really worked on his defence this season and has been the leader of a very good Manly team’s forward pack in the absence of Glenn Stewart.
Cons: Sometimes doesn’t play to the whistle and can be easily frustrated by refereeing decisions. Not much of a passing game at all, and has a reputation as a knucklehead which has cost him Origin caps in the past.
2013 Stats (per NRL.com):
Seven games, one try, 99 hit-ups at 14 per game, 114 metres per game at 8.14 metres per run, three offloads, two line breaks, 24.3 tackles per game, 1.6 missed tackles per game, eight errors this season.
Pros: Fantastic hole-hitter especially near the line, can offload through the line (although it’s rare), works perfectly in a system, solid defensively.
Cons: Not overly skilled beyond hole-hitting, not a great passer before the line, has struggled outside the Melbourne structure.
2013 Stats (per NRL.com):
Six games, one try, 56 hit-ups at 9.3 per game, 83.5 metres per game at 9.0 metres per run, no offloads, one line breaks, 24.7 tackles per game, 1.8 missed tackles per game, six errors this season.
Pros: He’s a very good hole hitter, although just behind Ryan Hoffman in that respect. He can also bump through minor gaps ala what Watmough does on occasion. He doesn’t have much of an offload but has a great pass before and at the line — as evidenced when he put Mitch Aubusson through against the Dragons. He is also a very good wide runner i.e. exploiting size advantages against smaller halves and centres with a unique quickness in getting back to his feet after tackles. He always plays the ball extremely quickly and enables his backs and hooker to get a roll on. He also has great speed when he makes it through the line. Defensively he’s scrappy and always cleaning up broken play, and he’s very good in pushing players back in a gang tackle.
Cons: He’s carrying a a ligament injury in his foot and a busted A/C joint that requires surgery at the end of the season. He’s getting needled up before games and can barely train the day after a game. These injuries aren’t going to heal any time soon as he continues to play with them, and the shoulder injury has the potential to get much worse if he cops a hard enough knock. He has also had some trouble with his handling this year, and at Origin errors are blown out of proportion.
Based on all this, Cordner really doesn’t have much downside. But all of his strengths in attack — except for his passing before the line and quick play the ball — are done better at this stage by his competition. Watmough is better at bumping off and through tackles, and is also faster. Hoffman is a better gap hitter. Merrin has a better offload, is more versatile and has better footwork and go-forward.
Statistically he doesn’t lead the above group in any category, plus he’s also the youngest of the group. They’ve also been there and done it, and have been in great form as well as being far more experienced.
Boyd has played a total of 35 games in his career.
He will play Origin at some stage, there is no question of that. He may even captain the Blues, such is how he epitomises what Origin is all about: elite skill, toughness and a one-minded focus on football. He’s already a 26 Rounds favourite and would not look out of place in a sky blue jersey. His time will come.
But this year? There are more experienced players who can offer many of the things Boyd can offer, while also being healthy. And this doesn’t take into account players such as Glenn Stewart, Willie Mason, Josh Jackson, Tariq Sims, Ryan James and even Tony Williams — should he ever awake from this eight-week coma he’s been in — coming into consideration for the bench spots.
It shouldn’t surprise you if he doesn’t get picked. Remember, he’s only 20.