NSW bench hooker Apisai Koroisau must be used as an explosive attacking weapon rather than simply an injury back-up in Origin III, legendary Blues coach Phil Gould says.
Koroisau will debut for NSW on Wednesday night on the Gold Coast, playing behind starting hooker Damien Cook.
But Gould insists that he can play a key role if used properly.
“Damien Cook is an 80-minute hooker, there’s no doubt, at club level and even at Origin he’s done that,” Gould said on Wide World of Sports’ Six Tackles with Gus podcast.
“But you’re talking about Game Three. We’ve been through the Origins, they’ve been a bit close together this year, there’s been club matches involved. You get to that second half of Origin and sometimes your players who’ve played every minute of every game are feeling worse for wear. They’ve got niggling injuries and there’s a fatigue factor and depending on how the game goes…
“I think it’s an inspired choice to have a hooker on the sideline, a specialist hooker, because that’s one position that could cause them trouble if there was an injury in the opening minutes of the clash. Early in last year’s Game Three, they lost a specialist position in [James] Tedesco and it really threw them out.
“I think in selecting Api Koroisau on the bench, they’ve pretty much got all specialist positions covered with someone who can do the job. And tactically, we know what Api Koroisau can do to tire defenders.
“So I’d be sitting there thinking not so much a plan to get Koroisau in the game, but a reaction to get Koroisau in the game. I’ve just got to see one or two defenders slow out of the marker position or a few players that are struggling with the Queensland side to get back their 10 metres, or they’re looking for a little place to hide because they’re trying to have a rest; I’d be reacting to that.
“I’d be saying, ‘Get Api out there now’, and hoping that he’s seeing the same thing. Once Api Koroisau gets on to the field, our game narrows and everyone goes through the ruck and we play off the back of him.
“He’s there to cover for injury, yes, he’s there to get a run at the back end of the game because he’s on debut, I’m not going to sit him on the bench all night; but by the same token, if I see that there’s opportunity, I’m going to put him on the field and that is a trigger for us to play this way and Api’s now in control. Not Moses, not Wighton, not Tedesco. Api Koroisau is in control for the next 10 or 15 minutes.’
Gould harked back to his champion NSW teams of the past, when Craig Wing came on as a super-sub and wreaked havoc from dummy-half.
“I remember back in the day, we had a player like Craig Wing who we could do that with. Craig Wing could go out there and you could use him as an attacking weapon,” Gould said.
“He could go out and tire the opposition team out and the minute you would see opposition forwards who were a bit slower on to the ball or a bit slower out of the marker position, or starting to get up a bit slower off the ground after making tackles, bang! You’d put him out there and it would frighten the hell out of them. You can win the game in that 10 minutes.
“I think it’s an inspired choice, I think Api Koroisau’s just the man to do that. I would be looking at him tactically before anything else and looking for those things in the game to get him out there; rather than just, he’s on the bench to cover any injury for Damien Cook and if Damien Cook doesn’t get an injury, then hopefully we’re in front with 10 minutes to go and I’ll give Api a run just to be nice. That’s not what he’s there for, I’d have him there tactically to explode the game open in a little 10 or 15-minute burst; the latter half of the first half or midway through the first or second half.
“You’ve got to be watching the opposition team and how they’re travelling physically. If you can see any weakness at all, punish them with someone who’s fresh and has a single-minded attitude. Once he comes on the field, we all know he’s going to run, we all know we’re going to play through the middle. Then all of a sudden, you’ve got 17 blokes playing against three or four blokes on their side. And you win.”