Halfbacks have a lot to live up to – Garry Schofield

I reckon Rugby League fans are being served half-measures when it comes to stand-offs and scrum-halves these days.

And I’m talking both Northern and Southern Hemisphere.

Before any of my Aussie mates start moaning and whingeing – and we all know how much they enjoy a bit of that! – I accept that, on balance, their halves are of a better standard than ours.

But that standard is still pretty ordinary.

I watch as many matches as I possibly can, and I don’t think many of the current crop are up there with the string of sixes and sevens coming off the production line between the sixties and the nineties.

In no particular order, here are six great sixes.

Terry Lamb, that wonderful Wests star who became a hero at Canterbury and was a master of support play.

Brett Kenny, a four-time Parramatta premier who had such an amazing sense of anticipation.

Laurie Daley, the Canberra king with that intense competitive streak.

Brad Fittler, the complete package who was a legend at Penrith and Sydney Roosters.

Bob Fulton, a classy tryscorer for Manly and Easts who also had a stint at Warrington.

Wally Lewis, tenacious, abrasive and inspirational, especially for state and country. People still talk about his brief spell at Wakefield.

And it says something when I haven’t even mentioned Cliff Lyons, a magician and title-winner at Manly who also wore the colours of Leeds and Sheffield.

And what about these seven sevens.

Tommy Raudonikis, the terrier-like Wests legend who played with all the ferocity of a front-row forward.

Ricky Stuart, Canberra linchpin and the Raiders’ current coach. A real schemer with a great kicking game and equally sweet pair of hands.

Peter Sterling, that peerless Parramatta playmaker who is still fondly remembered by the Hull fans lucky enough to have seen him in the black and white.

Allan ‘Alfie’ Langer, the diminutive Brisbane star who could turn a game by himself and who was so hard to contain.

Steve Mortimer, the master of four title triumphs with Canterbury, who signed him after he tore them to pieces in a cup-tie.

Des Hasler, a magician and title winner at Manly, where he is now coach. He also had a spell at Hull.

Greg Alexander, a real points machine for Penrith.

In more recent times, there have been other great halves who, like the 14 already mentioned, have shone for club, state and country.

I’m thinking Newcastle twosome and talented brothers Matthew and Andrew Johns, brilliant Brett Kimmorley, of Melbourne, Cronulla and Canterbury and the Brisbane supremo Darren Lockyer, who switched from fullback to stand-off with such devastating effect and captained the Broncos, Queensland and the Kangaroos to success in 2006.

Then there is Johnathan Thurston, whose amazing all-round skill set proved so valuable for North Queensland, and Cooper Cronk, who after two Grand Final wins with Melbourne, brought down the curtain on a cracking career by helping Sydney Roosters to successive championships.

These days, Canberra’s Jack Wighton (pictured), the Roosters’ Luke Keary, Manly’s Daly Cherry-Evans and Melbourne’s Cameron Munster have all played for Australia.
You also hear rave reviews for the likes of Kyle Flanagan at the Roosters, Nathan Cleary at Penrith and Mitchell Pearce at Newcastle.

But to me, none of them are a patch on the players I’ve mentioned previously.

I’m not alone in thinking that, because there are plenty of Aussie pundits, and quite a few of them are former halfbacks, who are saying similar things.
I chuckle to myself when I watch Souths captain Adam Reynolds, who has played Origin for New South Wales.

I think of him as Burt Reynolds, because for much of the time, he looks like he’s on a film set, standing around, waiting to get the director’s call to do something.

The modern half seems mainly to kick near the end of the set rather than backing himself to run at the opposition or do something special with the ball in hand.

It’s perhaps not all their fault, because a lot of coaches play a very structured style, which makes it harder for a halfback to do something off the cuff.

They have to be quite daring to even attempt it, and seem worried about taking responsibility.

That’s a big shame, because these guys should be among the game’s great entertainers.

And professional sport should be entertaining; otherwise what’s the point?

I think back to Wally Lewis and his ferocious defence, amazing vision, relentless running and those Exocet passes he delivered.

I’d like to think we’ll see another at his level, but I’m not sure we will.

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