Round 21 Head to Head: Mateo v Smith
Thursday 2 August 2012 10:00 AM
It has become a part of the game which is just as exciting as the fast and skilful half - the ball-playing back-rower. Most teams in the NRL will now have a forward who has the ball skills to create for their outside backs, and the Sharks and Vodafone Warriors are no different. But for as much as Jeremy Smith and Feleti Mateo have in common, they are so different.
Battle of the Ball-Playing Forwards
Feleti Mateo - Scouting Report
When you talk about players with that ‘X-factor’, Mateo is the first name that comes to mind. He has the ball playing skills of a half in the body of a backrower. When he and five-eighth James Maloney are on, the Vodafone Warriors are often unstoppable, with slick passing and great hole running making for devastating attacking football.
In his 19 appearances of 2012, Mateo has 3 tries, 5 line breaks, 16 line break assists, 10 try assists, 42 offloads and 39 tackle breaks.
Can tackle but his game is with ball in hand. Knows how to run a good angle near the line - Watch Mateo run onto a short ball from Nathan Friend to score and his awareness of a team-mate running a similarly good line is exceptional and his combination with James Maloney has thrived since Mateo arrived in Auckland.
With the game likely to be decided on the fringes, Mateo will be crucial to the Vodafone Warriors’ chances. As mentioned earlier, his combination with Maloney is devastating at its best, and he will offfer plenty to Ben Henry and Manu Vatuvei on his outside. The Sharks will need to shut his offload down, or risk letting the Vodafone Warriors run amok.
Dream Team Scoop:
He has been a good Dream Team prospect all year, with the potential to score very big when his attack is on. Whilst there are some lower scores thrown in, at $235,900 Mateo could be the difference maker for your side as the Vodafone Warriors start to play their second-phase football.
Jeremy Smith - Scouting Report
While most back-rowers playing at the Sharks are going to find themselves overshadowed by the brilliance of Paul Gallen, Smith has held is reputation as one of the toughest defenders in the competition.
He has worked away all year in the second row, playing fairly big minutes for a man his size and style. His tackling has often been cleaning up around the ruck, averaging just under 30 tackles per game. In addition to that, he is missing less than 2 tackles per game has one of the best effective tackle rates in the team.
But his attack has stepped up a level too. Playing in the centre, Smith caused havoc for the Raiders in Round 8, combining with Paul Gallen to break the line and set up a try for John Morris. He also laid on what looked to be the match-winning try against the Panthers last week, with a beautiful late offload to Tyson Frizell.
Smith’s leadership in Gallen’s absence was crucial for the Sharks, and he was sorely missed until his return last week. While still the tough tackling back-rower that everyone knows from season’s past, it is Smith’s ball playing that has added an extra element to his game. This could be crucial when the two meet on Sunday.
Dream Team Scoop:
Smith may seem to play second fiddle in a Dream Team sense to captain Paul Gallen, but Smith has been a very good contributor to the side all year. He has the potential to score quite well with attacking numbers, and will always have a solid base score with a good defensive workload. At $265,900 he is a good pick-up and could continue scoring well on the Sharks run to the finals.
Who will make the bigger contribution to their team’s chances of victory on Sunday? Let us know what you think of Smith v Mateo in the comments below.