The Game Maker

So often we hear commentators talk about the ?game breaker.? People like Andrew Johns and Brad Fittler are great examples of this. They are the players who are capable of conjuring up a miracle moment just when it?s needed, just when his team is struggling to put that crucial try on the board.

Game breaking moments happen in almost every game ? from the first five minutes to the last five minutes. It may be a Scott Sattler moment that wins you the grand final. It may also be that magical pass that hits a flying winger, a pass that cuts out five or more players over some thirty metres.

Yes, a game breaker is an important player to have in any side, but the game maker is even more critical. For me, the chief game maker is the goal kicker. It is he who is responsible for half of your points. It is he who can kick that winning goal from the far reaches of the sideline when the scores are 18 all in the 80th minute. It is he who can allow the team to use the full width of the field.

Often, the game maker and the game breaker are the same player. Cameron Smith springs straight to mind, as do players like Jonathon Thurston and Craig Fitzgibbon. They are the players who play 80 minutes each game and, more importantly, play them well. All of them then, unsurprisingly, are goal kickers. They are also very good goal kickers who have represented their country. No matter where they line up their attempt, you can be sure that they won?t be far from the mark.

It?s all well and good to be a game maker; the big question, really, is whether the successful goal kicker is a product of a successful team, or is a successful team the product of the successful kicker? Naturally, a team who scores a swag of tries most games will have as many attempts to convert. If these tries are all scored under the black dot, even the honourable Prime Minister of our great land will be able to stick over a high percentage.

The problem, however, is that no team consistently scores all of its tries under that black dot. So often, a team will find a lot of its success down the flanks. Without a top rate goal kicker at their disposal, they will not score as many points. With so many games being settled by 6 points or less, goal kicking is a vital aspect of the Greatest Game on Earth. In fact, a team can outscore the opposition in terms of tries scored, yet still lose the game with poor goal kicking.

The presence of a Hazem El Masri or Michael Dobson can give the team the confidence to spread the ball wide and make use of their naturally attacking wingers and centres. This has the added benefit of forming a cohesive team: there is no point in sticking a natural winger on the wing if the ball is never going to go his way.

Conversely, a team who lacks that successful goal kicker will be less likely to spread the ball wide where a try will usually only result in 4 points rather than the 6 on offer. Even when a team has three tries tallied up, they may only be up by 2 points if the other team has scored two converted tries. It is so evident in the style of play when a team should be up by that all important 6 points; instead of playing the successful brand of football that saw them score three tries, they realise that they can suddenly find themselves behind if they concede another 4 pointer. This can and does eat away at even the most experienced 200+ game veterans.

But a final word of warning is needed. A team who relies on their goal kicker will soon be found out. It will act as the burley to get the pack of sharks into a feeding frenzy. A great example of this is a team taking the 2 points when awarded a penalty. If the game is locked up and the captain elects for a shot at goal, this signals that they do not believe they will be able to outscore their opponents. However, used correctly, the game maker is essentially an 80 minute game breaker.