When selecting a squad or final team there are many initial selection factors to consider including the players age, division, playing position and the additionally the calibre of other players competing for positions. Depending on the squad or team being selected and the time period available, player TalentID (or TID) can be conducted over numerous tournaments, gala days and/or dedicated trial sessions.
There are many additional factors coaches/selectors take into consideration including: ability to play a certain role/style of game plan within the team, team formation (PODS, 6-6-2, vs 6-5-3 etc), attitude, culture fit, fitness levels, emotional intelligence/ability to be a teammate others want to play alongside, mindset toughness and very importantly the players position or utility value.
The first stop for any feedback should be the players local affiliate team via their coach or club. Their coach should know the players strengths and areas for development as they will see the player more often than regional selectors during the trial process. Of course the standard of touch improves and gets higher with each step up from local competition to affiliate selection, then onto regional, state and national level.
Players that miss out on the final team may still have the opportunity to be a shadow player. If selected as a shadow this should be looked at as an opportunity to improve and make their way into the final team. Shadows can vary slightly from team to team, however at Scorpions shadows are invited to training and given the opportunity to develop their game and should a final team player need to withdraw then the shadow may be invited into the final team.
Further information on common touch skills that are observed during the trial process are below. The ratings used by Scorpions in feedback provided is as a follows: Excellent, Good, Needs Improvement.
Overall Fitness / Speed / Agility: Touch is game built on speed. If you are lacking in fitness, speed or agility you will need to improve in these areas for higher representative opportunities. Some sample fitness related drills can be found here.
Passing: Passing the ball is a core foundation skill required in Touch. As players rise through the ranks they will be expected to pass strongly on both sides, i.e. their stronger side (usually right to left if right-handed) and also their non-natural side (usually left to right if right-handed).
Dumping the Ball: Players need to be able to dump the ball when touched in a fluent action with the ball placed stationary on the ground for the dummy half to pick-up cleanly without error. As players rise through the ranks they will be expected to be able to dump strongly with both hands and not just their dominate hand.
Ruck Domination: This is the ability to win the ruck when dumping the ball. Players need to be strong physically when dumping the ball so no errors result. Additionally when defending players need to be strong aiming to slow down the roll-ball without conceding a penalty.
Defensive Body Position in the Ruck & Exit Lines: This is the defenders Body Position in the Ruck (or roll-ball area) and Exit Lines are where the defender retreats to once the touch is made. At the higher levels when defending the try line it’s very important for players to make the touch, retreat all the way back to the try line with both feet (sometimes up to 7 metres) and then move forward off the line in the best body position and shape ready to be able to react to the attacking play.
Listens to instruction & attempts to execute: Selectors and coaches will look for players that they believe can carry out their individual role in the team which will contribute to the overall game plan.
Technical Aspects for position/s trialled: Different Touch positions can have different technical aspects and behaviours that are desired. For example, wingers need to have good defensive shape and the ability to chase out at speed, e.g shoulders out, foot forward etc.
Observed Attitude: Not always easily identifiable at trials, however players attitudes will usually play a huge part in their own personal success as well as team success. Selectors and coaches are looking for players with a positive attitude and high level of emotional intelligence, e.g. the ability to be a teammate others want to play alongside.
Body Language: Another important attribute in Touch, players that display positive body language will be noticed by selectors and coaches.
Presence on the Field: The challenge through-out the trial process is to stand-out and be seen by selectors and coaches. Having a positive presence on the field is a combination of many of the Touch skills as outlined above – the more of these you can improve and be strong in then there is more chance you will have a presence on the field and stand-out during the selection process.
Effective Communication: This is of huge importance in sport and Touch. Not only to be able to talk on and off the field, but effectively be heard by your teammates adding value to your role and the overall team. It’s not always easy for players to get out of their comfort zone with communication, especially when turning up to a trial and being expected to talk and shout instructions to players they don’t know from other affiliates. Being an effective communicator can be the difference on selection from one player to another.
Persistence and resilience are important attributes for any modern day athlete that aims to make it to the top, however there are other simple attributes within your control that will likely lead to future selections and achieving your personal goals.