Quality kick returns in rugby league are an essential part of establishing decent field position from any tackle set.
I’m not necessarily talking about the many players that collect the ball from a last tackle kick and amble forward into the chasing line to take the first contact.
A quality return requires urgency, skill and communication from any players able to support the ball carrier. This, as Al Pachino knows, is a game of inches.
And they all count!
Whilst much of my work is spent coaching kickers to turn opposition backs around and drive deep to the pockets, this example looks at what an attacking attitude and great footwork can do when seemingly there is no space to work bringing the ball back out.
I have had enough, even at the elite level, of watching passive kick returns.
Whilst all teams will play with several exit options, it is the first contact and play the ball (unless a line break) that will determine eventual field position to launch an attack.
It is imperative you instill an “attack ball at all costs” attitude when receiving kicks. Work on developing a “catch on the full” mindset and the rewards will follow. 10m back there means everything to the quality of the set!
Observe the clip below (1.5mins) and observe the following:
* The initial catch from the orange team (Easts), and return to the oncoming chasing line of four
* Cameron Munster (4) in the wing position (bottom of screen) works back to support or be part of the play
* Footwork from the initial ball carrier, and movement taking three outside defenders wider creating space inside
* The pass to Munster (4) who (on the same page!) attacks the space on the inside with aggressive attitude
* Whilst not a quick play the ball, no loss either as Souths (white) with 4 players were unable to get Cameron onto his back
* How many times did he change direction? How many defenders before halting his progress? How many metres gained?
Often after an attacking line break many players can get a rush of blood, wandering even slightly off their channel or losing valuable width and depth as they ‘ball watch’.
Discipline was key to asserting the numbers advantage on the left side, and finishing this set that began way back on their own 20 metre line.
Yes, Cameron Munster is exceptional, but we should all be looking to coach these qualities into our kick returns.
I guarantee you will see results!
By Stuart Lierich