Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
Throughout the history of our game, the key to winning a premiership has been a strong spine, and more specifically a world-class half.
Over the past decade, every Grand Final winning side has boasted a world-class half, either in the five-eighth or halfback position and a solid spine to boot.
However, based on the recent recruitment strategies of certain clubs, things may be set to change.
Clubs seem to be prioritising their forward pack over all else when searching the open market for players, and while a squad full of big and powerful players can make an impact, can it lead to a premiership?
These teams seem to think so.
Addin Fonua-Blake, Bayley Sironen and Ben Murdoch-Masila have joined a New Zealand Warriors forward pack containing the likes of reigning Dally M Second Rower of the Year Tohu Harris and dual International Leeson Ah Mau.
New Zealand is a side that has two talented halves in Kodi Nikorima and Chanel Harris-Tevita who are both undoubtedly talented, but to this point have lacked the leadership and game controlling ability to take the Warriors to a premiership, so the club’s decision to further strengthen their forward pack over signing a half or hooker shows how coach Nathan Brown believes they will go about being successful on the field.
Bone-rattlers and try-savers!
— NRL (@NRL) March 15, 2021
The Wests Tigers are currently suffering the competition’s longest finals drought and it looks like they too believe the way to improve and make the top eight for the first time since 2011 is through a strong forward pack.
Luke Garner, Luciano Leilua and Alex Twal are three solid forwards who have been joined by recruits James Tamou, Joe Ofahengaue and prodigy Stefano Utoikamanu to create quite an impressive pack on paper.
Considering both Benji Marshall and Harry Grant exited the club at the end of 2020, the fact that the Tigers signed who they did over a half or hooker speaks volumes as to their mentality this season.
The Bulldogs went on a signing frenzy over the offseason, improving their squad as a whole, but investing the most into their already great forward pack.
Adam Elliot re-signed, while Jack Hetherington and Corey Waddell were acquired to improve a frontline that already boasts 2019 Harry Sunderland Trophy winner Luke Thompson, former New South Wales Origin player Josh Jackson and NRL premiership winner Dylan Napa.
It will be interesting to see if any of these “forward heavy” clubs achieve a significant amount of success in 2021.