This week for ‘Your Edge’ we take a look at how much Kalyn Ponga can add to the Queensland Maroons attack, Matthew Lodge’s impact on the Warriors pack, and Matthew Dufty’s call to improve the Bulldogs with the ball in 2022.
State of Origin III
The Queensland Maroons have scored six points in 160 minutes of football. Game 2 marked the first time they had ever finished a match at Suncorp Stadium without scoring a point. Their inability to build scoreboard pressure has allowed the New South Wales Blues to work through any grinding moments of a game knowing full well that points will come in the end.
The series is all but over for Queensland and they’re now playing for pride, but there is some hope. It comes in the form of Kalyn Ponga.
Ponga has only featured six times this year and once since Round 9, but his numbers paint a picture of what he is going to add to the Maroons.
- 6 games
- 6 tries
- 6 try assists
- 5 line breaks
- 162 running metres per game
While Reece Walsh has produced a handful of promising moments and Valentine Holmes is looking better as the season goes on, Ponga is Queensland’s best fullback and adds an element to their attack that has been missing up to this point. He can set up tries or score them himself while his general presence is enough to throw doubt into a defensive line. Statistically, he has been the most productive spine player (in Game 3) over the last two NRL seasons.
The Maroons left-edge attack all of a sudden has some spice to it. Cameron Munster – who has been handled with relative ease so far this series – has a player out the back of shape to take some attention from himself and David Fifita. Meanwhile, Hamiso-Tabuai Fidow’s lightning speed will need to be a consideration for a defensive line that has been able to compress and slide out to a much slower Kurt Capewell throughout the first two games. Valentine Holmes is a proven finisher on the wing, too.
It might be too little too late – if it’s enough at all – but we can expect the Maroons to score some points in Game 3. Ponga is likely to play a key role whether he is credited on the stats pages or not.
Origin Value Plays
The Sport Tech Daily Try Scorer Model has highlighted big Junior Paulo as a value play in the First Try Scorer market for Game 3. While the Blues have scored a lot of their tries out wide, Damien Cook scheming around the ruck in good ball and playing short to Paulo is a threatening option early.
Maroons debutant Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow is sandwiched amongst an elite attacking group on the left edge and his speed will be something Paul Green surely looks to utilise in this one. The 19-year-old has scored in 11 of his 23 matches at NRL level and claimed the first try twice per the Sport Tech Daily Try Scorer Portal.
Unsurprisingly, Josh Addo-Carr, Latrell Mitchell, Brian To’o and Tom Trbojevic all feature as any time try scorers. However, Mitchell Moses and his willingness to follow up through the middle appeals given how much success the Blues have had down the edges in exit sets so far this series.
Ponga’s $13 is a standout option for Man of the Match should Queensland cause an upset but Latrell Mitchell will surely be in the mix if the result goes New South Wales’ way as most expect. He has arguably be the Player of the Series so far and can go a long way to locking up the Wally Lewis Medal with a Man of the Match performance in Game 3.
Warriors Working Up The Field
It goes against the general trend of the NRL at the moment, but the New Zealand Warriors think bigger is better.
With Addin Fonua-Blake and Matthew Lodge now starting in the front row, the Warriors aren’t short of size. The pair combine for 240kg and possess impressive motors. However, Lodge, in particular, doesn’t have quite the same impact as the top tier props in the game at the moment.
He has a big motor and his 128.7 running metres per game is an upgrade on what the Warriors had before he signed. But Lodge is behind the pack when it comes to how efficient and effective he is on his carries.
As the best teams in the NRL work towards their middle forwards being mobile and at least serviceable as ball players, the Warriors are going old-school and trying to bash their way through the front door. With both signed on at the club through to at least the end of 2022, it will be interesting to see how effective this approach is across the remainder of the 2021 NRL season.
Dufty To Ignite Dogs Attack
Matthew Dufty is a polarizing figure in rugby league.
To the casual and highlight reel-consuming footy fan, he’s an electric attacking player that seems to score, send a teammate over the line or break through the line and into the backfield every week. With 10 tries, 11 try assists and eight line breaks in 13 games, Dufty does just that. He has only failed to register a try, try assist or line break in a game three times this season.
The Bulldogs play with the worst attack in the NRL at the moment scoring just 11.8 points per game. They’ve repeatedly turned over the spine to find the right combination. Now, they’re taking a punt on Dufty with a one-year contract for 2022. He will improve things for Trent Barrett’s side with the ball. Whether or not he can do enough with the ball to make up for his struggles in defence – he has averaged over one try cause per game over the last two seasons – will determine where he ends up in 2023.