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Is the one-on-one strip under-utilised in Rrugby league?

I came away from the weekend’s Sydney Roosters vs Melbourne Storm clash with one principal observation.

It focusses on the final five minutes of the game, with the Roosters up by four points and time ticking away. During this final stretch the Storm were desperate for possession and to even up the game.

As such, Melbourne began to change the way they tackled their opponents. It wasn’t in every tackle, but on numerous occasions Storm defenders purposely went into tackles with the sole aim of stripping the ball in a one-on-one tackle.

One Storm defender would rush up and try to strip the ball, while others who were close enough to affect the tackle stood off and didn’t engage. At one stage commentator Andrew Voss said something to the effect of the Roosters players “resembling NFL running backs” in the way they were carrying the ball to the line – that is, holding the ball tightly with two hands and very close to their chest.

What surprised me watching this was that this tactic from the Storm seemed quite effective. The Roosters runners were almost stripped on more than one occasion and some even seemed hesitant running at the line, knowing a one-on-one strip was coming.

This tactic got me thinking. Why don’t more teams adopt this approach? Why not target specific players on the opposition who could be easier to tackle one on one and/or strip the ball?

One-on-one strips seem to be a massively under-utilised part of the game. They have a major impact, as we saw in the Origin series with Cameron Munster’s one-on-one strip on Stephen Crichton. And yet to me they rarely seem to be attempted purposefully. More likely is that a player finds themselves in a one-on-one tackle and then thinks to strip the ball rather than a team purposely deciding to go for strips.

In the NFL, defenders will commonly swipe at the ball or attempt to knock the ball out of a runner or receiver’s hands, yet this rarely happens in NRL games.

Of course, like many things in rugby league, we don’t seem to have any statistics on one-on-one strips available, so I can’t tell you how often strips happen and even how effective they are.

But it’s interesting to think about it. Do teams train tackling techniques where stripping the ball is the main goal? And which teams or players are better at it?

It could be that just like the short kick-offs from line drop-outs, we see a trend towards one-on-one strips as we start to look at the pros and cons of this technique.

But what do you think, Roarers? Do you agree that more teams should use the one-on-one strip?

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