SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 01: Zac Lomax of the Dragons makes a break during the round 24 NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Wests Tigers at Sydney Cricket Ground on September 01, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

A few years ago, the art of a specialist NRL centre was gone.

There were no more Mark Gasnier’s and Jamie Lyon’s.

Instead, they were occupied by versatile players who complemented the gun winger, which was fast becoming the strike weapons of an NRL back line.

The Semi Radradra era as I like to call it. Where big, strong, and athletic wingers were the go too’s. A side would sooner pay the big bucks for a star winger who could start off the sets well with a tough first carry and finish acrobatically in the corner.

Over the past two years however, a slight shift has occurred with the emergence of a gun centre. And 2020, although a strange year in so many ways, has truly unearthed some of the best strike centre’s in recent memory.

The plethora of talent occupying the three-quarter channel is a far cry from the Australian side in 2013 (which won the world cup) who had two full backs playing in the centres – Jarryd Hayne and Greg Inglis. When the 2021 world cup comes around, it’s hard for me to comprehend that it won’t have a specialist playing in the 3 and 4 jersey.

The naysayers may point to the NSW blues side in 2020, who played Clinton Gutherson and Jack Wighton in the centre positions (full back and five-eighth respectively).

Brisbane Broncos Training Session
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – MAY 06: Kotoni Staggs passes the ball during a Brisbane Broncos NRL training session at the Clive Berghofer Centre on May 06, 2020 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

 

A fair argument, but waiting in the wings is Stephen Crichton, Bradman Best, Zac Lomax and Kotoni Staggs. Fittler went with experience in the 2020 series – I doubt he will follow the same principles in 2021 which such talent at his disposal.

It may be a change in the way the NRL teams play now – whether it’s less block plays and more early ball through a two pass from the halves. I don’t have the footy knowledge to break it down, I just know that it’s working.

NRL Rd 11 - Titans v Panthers
GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA – JULY 26: Stephen Crichton of the Panthers scores a try during the round 11 NRL match between the Gold Coast Titans and the Penrith Panthers at Cbus Super Stadium on July 26, 2020 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

 

The current list of young freakish three quarters will have some of the best talent in the NRL vying for representative spots:

The oldest players (Jesse Ramien and Joseph Manu) are only 24, which means we will be seeing the above-mentioned players for years to come.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – OCTOBER 06: Joseph Manu of the Roosters celebrates victory at fulltime during the 2019 NRL Grand Final match between the Canberra Raiders and the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium on October 06, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

 

There’s so much variety in the above pack of players, from the strength and explosiveness of Kotoni Staggs and Bradman Best, to the silky skills of Joseph Manu and Zac Lomax.

It’s brilliant to watch and even better to see them go head to head against each other, pitting their strength and styles against one another in an intriguing battle.