The new world .. does size dictate position?

Feast yer eyes ..
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Latrell to lock, Schuster to halves, Murray smaller than both - why size doesn’t really matter in NRL anymore​

Story by Paul Suttor • 4h ago


The way that Latrell Mitchell tore into opposition line-ups at the World Cup, you’d swear his best position would be in the forwards.

A ball-playing lock, a wide-running back-rower perhaps. Like a Gene Miles or a Noel Cleal of yesteryear who dominated in the backs before going on a forward march.

He’s got the size and strength to make a successful transition into the forwards to be devastating in that role, not that he’s ever expressed any desire to leave the relative comfort of the backs.

And it’s not that South Sydney need him to switch to the pack. They’ve got one of the game’s best locks in Cameron Murray, who just happens to be significantly smaller than Mitchell.

While it used to be the case that the biggest boppers on a rugby league field were all found in the pack, that is no longer the case with several NRL teams rolling out line-ups with centres and wingers more physically imposing than some of their forwards.
(Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)
Murray recently said it’s an advantage for him to not be as big as some forwards in the six-again era where mobility is more important than muscle.
Mitchell is a forward in a back’s role, listed at 193cm and 102kg while Murray is the reverse at 184cm and tipping the scales at 95kg.

But while size, shape and speed varies little between centres, wingers, edge and middle forwards these days, Mitchell is bucking the trend when it comes to fullbacks.

Usually the fittest and most mobile players on an NRL team, Mitchell has carved out a unique style in the Rabbitohs’ No.1 jersey where the value of his contribution is in the quality rather than the quantity.

Mitchell averaged 26 possessions per game last season in his 17 appearances for the Bunnies, which ranked him near the bottom among regular fullbacks – surprisingly, Cronulla’s Will Kennedy (24) and Canberra’s Xavier Savage (20) were lower.

The fullbacks who were the most involved were Parramatta skipper Clint Gutherson (38), with North Queensland’s Scott Drinkwater, Panthers star Dylan Edwards and Brisbane’s Tesi Niu on 36 apiece.

Mitchell also compares unfavourably to his peers when it comes to running metres at 85 per game, more than doubled by Edwards (192) and also well down when compared with James Tedesco (184) and Tom Trbojevic (176).

While he excelled at centre in Australia’s World Cup campaign and has done so for NSW in the Origin arena, Souths would be reluctant to switch him there at club level because his involvement would be reduced even further.

A move to the halves has been mentioned as a possibility for Mitchell but Souths need to invest in young playmaker Lachlan Ilias after his encouraging rookie season while Cody Walker has a mortgage on the five-eighth’s role.

You could argue that Mitchell is better suited to five-eighth and Walker could thrive at fullback but coach Jason Demetriou would again be hesitant to make such a dramatic change.
 
Bencher
Premium Member
Wise men and associated with some Rugby League coaches, bit of an oxymoron there , but point taken . Good concept to give a jumper to one "s best 13 or 17 but a few limitations unfortunately as well
 
Sea Eagle Lach
Premium Member
Since he first burst on the scene as a teen I have imagined Mitchell becoming a dominant prop in the style of Artie Beetson. Maybe in a few years if he plays on into his 30s ...?
Does raise a question though about Manly's forwards. Tuilagi and Haumole are both enormous but we lack a Martin or Murray type. Maybe young Fulton is that guy for us.
 
First Grader
I reckon the only forward position for Mitchell would be in the back row, but he has so much talent, could arguably play anywhere 1 -17....
Still like my 6 and 7 as generals and organisers and forward to be intimidating monsters with no mercy and outside backs to possess extra speed, step and agility....and of course a 9 who can provide crisp service and also explosive dashes at pivital moments....but overall I get the picture and there's a big reason why.
Due to the modern game becoming predictable, with similar structures and emphasis on possession and good field position, the game is more built for good athletes and the roles not as defined.
The good old days of Cliffy Lyons types playing what's in front have changed, to the point many coaches will rake a kid off the field, who does not follow his ABC manual and tries to use their own instincts, so the instinctive footballer is fast becoming extinct with big, fast hybrids more the style of player that fits the modern coaching resume with Cody Walker 1 of few "old school" footy players left.....As good as the modern day defensive structures are, I still feel the Natural footy players would carve them up and that's why the BEST way to break a modern day defence is second phase play and offloads to disrupt the patterns and comprimise the middle, leading to the playbooks basically shredded to small unreadable pieces !!
 
Feast yer eyes ..
I reckon the only forward position for Mitchell would be in the back row, but he has so much talent, could arguably play anywhere 1 -17....
Still like my 6 and 7 as generals and organisers and forward to be intimidating monsters with no mercy and outside backs to possess extra speed, step and agility....and of course a 9 who can provide crisp service and also explosive dashes at pivital moments....but overall I get the picture and there's a big reason why.
Due to the modern game becoming predictable, with similar structures and emphasis on possession and good field position, the game is more built for good athletes and the roles not as defined.
The good old days of Cliffy Lyons types playing what's in front have changed, to the point many coaches will rake a kid off the field, who does not follow his ABC manual and tries to use their own instincts, so the instinctive footballer is fast becoming extinct with big, fast hybrids more the style of player that fits the modern coaching resume with Cody Walker 1 of few "old school" footy players left.....As good as the modern day defensive structures are, I still feel the Natural footy players would carve them up and that's why the BEST way to break a modern day defence is second phase play and offloads to disrupt the patterns and comprimise the middle, leading to the playbooks basically shredded to small unreadable pieces !!

One of the main defining factors of positional suitability is stamina

There are 2 fairly distinct types of athletes .. those with the stamina to work at a high rate over prolonged periods ... and those with explosive energy, over a short burst with quick recovery.

The former required for most forwards .. the latter usually the sprinters in the backs. .

Speak to most sprinters and they will tell you their mothers could beat them in any sort of middle distance, or longer race.

And then there are those rarer hybrids who go well at both .. they tend to be your halfs.

Then there is attitude and commitment.

Whilst Lattrell make have the size and power to be a forward ... I doubt he has the stamina or commitment to be a top shelf 2nd rower.
 
First Grader
One of the main defining factors of positional suitability is stamina

There are 2 fairly distinct types of athletes .. those with the stamina to work at a high rate over prolonged periods ... and those with explosive energy, over a short burst with quick recovery.

The former required for most forwards .. the latter usually the sprinters in the backs. .

Speak to most sprinters and they will tell you their mothers could beat them in any sort of middle distance, or longer race.

And then there are those rarer hybrids who go well at both .. they tend to be your halfs.

Then there is attitude and commitment.

Whilst Lattrell make have the size and power to be a forward ... I doubt he has the stamina or commitment to be a top shelf 2nd rower.
Respectfully disagree and that's rare Woodsie....but a healthy debate of opinion....
I actually think many players these days often are a mix of explosive and energy such as Cameron Murray, and Nanai types who are predominantly backrowers......does Latrell have a high workrate, NO not at all, so better off out wider as an X factor player.
In saying that - if we were offered Latreel Mitchell as a backrow option today I would jump at it.....yes would need time to adapt, but an elite player who would give edge defenders absolute nightmares, already scores many Power tries as a centre through the middle, but maybe an impact as you fairly stated, would struggle with workrate and not just because of his motor, but also his Attitude.
 
Reserve Grader
Since he first burst on the scene as a teen I have imagined Mitchell becoming a dominant prop in the style of Artie Beetson. Maybe in a few years if he plays on into his 30s ...?
Does raise a question though about Manly's forwards. Tuilagi and Haumole are both enormous but we lack a Martin or Murray type. Maybe young Fulton is that guy for us.
Would have to see more of Fulton in the top grade before making a call on that but I was also wondering if Weekes could be a Murray type of 13. They're a similar build, has good speed and well, that's all I can think of at the moment coz we haven't seen enough of him in 1st grade. I think a fully fit Walker would have been good for us there as well. Surely Jake can't continue there indefinitely??!! To @Woodsie point regarding stamina - it's hard to know with either young bloke can cut it there until we see more of them in the top grade. But I think the 13 has to be the more rarer hybrid type these days.
 
Feast yer eyes ..
Respectfully disagree and that's rare Woodsie....but a healthy debate of opinion....
I actually think many players these days often are a mix of explosive and energy such as Cameron Murray, and Nanai types who are predominantly backrowers......does Latrell have a high workrate, NO not at all, so better off out wider as an X factor player.
In saying that - if we were offered Latreel Mitchell as a backrow option today I would jump at it.....yes would need time to adapt, but an elite player who would give edge defenders absolute nightmares, already scores many Power tries as a centre through the middle, but maybe an impact as you fairly stated, would struggle with workrate and not just because of his motor, but also his Attitude.

I've had 60 years of living it ... having my own experiences, I was thankful when Tezza Terry Hill had a huge blow up with the trainers at manly back in the day ... after struggling home next to last in the traditional preseason road runs he finally refused to do any more ... he said they were a complete waste of his time ... what he needed for his game was to do sprint recover sprint recover work.

The stand off eventually making it into the media .... Terry won his case by a landslide and never did long runs again.

I was the same ... I could do the sprint recovery training all day while the "fit" guys were throwing up ... but ask me to do 2 laps of the oval and I was stuffed ... they are very different physiologies..

As @Seagles68 suggests .. modern rugby league may attract more than it's share of the rarer hybrids ...

And I would bet that Jake who can jog and tackle all day, had to do 2 50 meter full out sprints in a row .. he would need oxygen and a little lie down.

They are 2 very different types of fitness and lung capacity and oxygen processing ...
Not
 
Feast yer eyes ..
@maxta ... here is a pretty easy to read story ...

The Physical Difference Between Long Distance Runners & Sprinters​

By Andra Picincu, CN, CPTUpdated April 7, 2020 Reviewed by Jody Braverman, CPT, FNS, RYT

Sprinting isn't just a more explosive form of running — it also involves various biomechanics, including differences in stride length. A long-distance runner's body is lean and relies on slow-twitch muscle fibers during training. Sprinters rely on fast-twitch muscles and typically have a heavier build.

Fast-Twitch Fibers and Sprinting​

Trying to decide between sprinting and long-distance running? Can you be great at both? Not really. Sure, you can do both activities for recreational purposes and overall fitness, but your genetics and training routine will ultimately determine what you're best at.
In general, sprinters are genetically gifted with a larger number of fast-twitch muscle fibers compared with long-distance runners. This allows them to perform explosive movements and engage in high-intensity exercise for short periods. The same goes for powerlifters, bodybuilders and other strength athletes, explains the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).

Your body begins to use fast-twitch muscle fibers when the slow-twitch fibers can no longer meet the force demands of a particular activity. Fast-twitch fibers can generate more force in a shorter time than slow-twitch fibers, according to the American Council on Exercise. Additionally, they have the greatest impact on muscle size and definition. That's one of the reasons sprinters are typically more muscular and have a larger build than long-distance runners.
Compared with slow-twitch fibers, fast-twitch muscle fibers fatigue more quickly and hence are more suited for short-duration anaerobic activities like sprinting and weight lifting. As the American Council on Exercise notes, lifting heavy weights or performing explosive, power-based movements is the best way to activate fast-twitch fibers.

Slow-Twitch Muscle Fibers and Running​

Sprinters and strength athletes have 60 to 80 percent fast-twitch fibers, reports a June 2012 review featured in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Endurance athletes, including long-distance runners, have 90 to 95 percent slow-twitch muscle fibers.
However, most studies are conflicting, and it's still unclear whether or not exercise can cause a shift in fiber type and how much of a role genetics play in fiber type composition.

Slow-twitch fibers are smaller and less forceful but more resilient to fatigue than fast-twitch fibers. Since they rely on oxygen to function properly, they are better suited for long-duration aerobic activities, notes the American Council on Exercise.
These types of muscle fibers come into play when your muscles contract during exercise. High-rep training, isometric movements, circuits and other activities that get your heart pumping faster will activate the slow-twitch fibers and improve their efficiency.

As mentioned above, slow-twitch fibers rely on oxygen for energy. This allows them to sustain continuous muscle contractions over a long time. That's why endurance athletes can run longer and perform more reps than strength or power athletes.

However, current evidence suggests that it may be possible to change your muscle fiber type through exercise.
Read more: 10 Exercises to Increase Your Running Speed

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research review indicates that cycling, long-distance running and other aerobic activities may increase the number of slow-twitch fibers. Strength training, on the other hand, may lead to a larger number of fast-twitch fibers. Furthermore, a lack of exercise may reduce the number of fast-twitch fibers and increase the percentage of slow-twitch fibers.

Sprinter vs. Runner: Key Differences​

One of the primary differences between sprinters and runners lies in muscle fiber type, as discussed earlier. This factor plays a key role in athletic performance. Additionally, a long-distance runner's body is less muscular, especially in the upper region, compared with a sprinter.

Another difference between the two is that sprinters often have more developed glutes than runners, according to the experts at Setanta College. The gluteus maxiumus, which is the largest muscle in your body, stabilizes the lower back and sacroiliac joints while exerting force and power. Therefore, having strong glutes is essential for athletic performance.
Sprinters also tend to have greater curvature in the lower back compared to long-distance runners. This characteristic may be due to the increased muscle bulk in the gluteal region, explains Setanta College.

A January 2015 article published in Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews discusses the age-related changes and other health characteristics in long-distance runners versus sprinters. As the scientists note, runners have higher levels of aerobic capacity than sprinters. The latter, though, still have higher maximal aerobic capacity than sedentary people.
Read more: 24 Health Benefits of Running That Will Finally Convince You to Give It a Try
As far as body composition is concerned, both types of athletes seem to be in better shape as they age compared with untrained individuals. However, aging sprinters tend to preserve more lean mass than long-distance runners, which can be helpful in their senior years. Although bone density is typically higher in both sprinters and middle-distance runners than in long-distance runners, all groups experience a decrease in bone strength over the years.
Both runners and sprinters are prone to sports-specific injuries, according to the above review. Elite sprinters, for example, have greater odds of developing injuries to their tendons and ligaments. Long-distance runners and endurance athletes, in general, tend to develop cardiovascular problems, but they're still healthier in the long run compared with the average person. Both sports may decrease the risk of heart disease.

Balancing Speed and Endurance​

Your ability to sprint or run long distances depends partly on your genetics and partly on your training routine. The good news is you don't have to choose between the two. Balancing speed and endurance is often the key to enhanced athletic performance.
If, say, you're a great sprinter and want to get better at running, you can train your slow-twitch muscle fibers. The American Council on Exercise recommends isometric exercises for this purpose. Planks, low squats and triceps extensions against a wall are just a few examples. High-rep strength training, bodyweight training and circuits with lighter weights promote slow-twitch fiber development too, so you may add them to your routine.
Read more: The 8 Best Stretches to Do Before Running
Runners, on the other hand, can build strength and explosiveness by training their fast-twitch fibers. Heavy lifting and explosive movements with kettlebells, dumbbells or exercise balls are all a good choice. Bodyweight exercises like pull-ups, push-ups and chin-ups can be just as effective. Rest for 60 to 90 minutes between exercises so your muscles can recover and get the energy needed to start all over.
You may also alternate between sprinting and running to get the best of both worlds. Go out for a run every weekend or whenever you have some spare time. Sprinting is less time-consuming, so you can squeeze a quick workout into your schedule on most days. Either way, start with small steps and increase your speed or distance as you progress.

So the jury is still out on how much you can change your level of fast-twitch fibers ... but the fact that the number you have As mentioned above, slow-twitch fibers rely on oxygen for energy. This allows them to sustain continuous muscle contractions over a long time. That's why endurance athletes can run longer and perform more reps than strength or power athletes
 
Reserve Grader
I reckon some of it is the desire or willingness to defend

I doubt Latrell wants to tackle forwards all day and I suspect Josh Schuster doesn't either.

Whereas guys like Jake and Croker seem to love the defensive workload and that dictates they play in the middle.
 
The Incomparable Immortal Bob Fulton
If you have any three of these four Attributes Speed , Skill , Size and Strength

You could dominate in any position in Any Era
 
Team P W L PD Pts
24 20 4 306 42
24 18 6 209 38
24 17 7 272 36
24 16 8 119 34
24 15 9 247 32
24 15 9 201 32
24 14 10 130 30
24 14 10 63 30
24 13 11 -36 28
24 12 12 -100 26
24 9 15 -105 20
24 7 17 -192 16
24 6 18 -205 14
24 6 18 -290 14
24 6 18 -292 14
24 4 20 -327 10
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