Is unseen work myth or reality?

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Post by kiakahaaotearoa on Wed 28 Aug 2013, 7:18 pm

Players like Lydiate often provoke the phrase unseen work. Back in his day Reuben Thorne's nickname was Captain Invisible. A beautifully liberal moniker because it suited his many detractors and the selectors who strangely kept picking him.

How much of the work at the breakdown does the naked eye pick up? This is more a phrase used for forwards as backs tend to be more transparent in what they do.

I must confess I'm a tad cynical about the term but I did read some intriguing statistics on the roar that made me sit up and think about this issue.

Richie McCaw returned to test football after his self imposed break. His timing seemed off in the first half of the Sydney match and I thought Hooper caught the eye more in Wellington and was the best Walkaby player and overshadowed McCaw.

But listen to these statistics.
In 153 minutes of rugby over the two matches so far this season McCaw had 115 involvements (17 carries, 32 attempted tackles, 39 attacking rucks and 27 defensive rucks) whereas Hooper played 156 minutes and had 64 involvements (10 carries, 12 attempted tackles, 25 attacking rucks and 17 defensive rucks). McCaw’s involvements over the two matches were 80% higher than that of Hooper.

In the Wellington match Hooper had fewer involvements than the first match and less than half of McCaw in terms of involvements: 28 to 59.

Is this an example of unseen work? These stats don't have turnovers in which I would wager Hooper outplayed McCaw. But it seems in other areas Hooper's work rate is notably lacking.

Maybe this is a symptom of Genia's drop in form. He seems to be lacking protection and he lacks that space that he craves and in which he excels. Is it possible to attribute a drop in form to unseen work or lack thereof or is it a cop out?

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Post by Biltong on Wed 28 Aug 2013, 7:23 pm

I suppose it very much depends on what the player does.

Unseen work is most often the work being done out of view of where the ball is. Camera work and the focus of the spectator is mostly focused on the ball carrier and what he does with the ball, if Genia gives a flat pass into space, we quickly shift our focus to Cooper, when he steps into the spec created by the pass, go around his defender and then gives the ball to O'Connor who merely has to dot the ball down, we all go wow, look at Cooper.

But the sequence of events could hinge on what fifteen players as a collective do, we just don't see it all.
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Post by The Saint on Wed 28 Aug 2013, 7:33 pm

I get the feeling you've started something with the Irish here, simply by mentioning Lydiate...

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Post by kiakahaaotearoa on Wed 28 Aug 2013, 7:45 pm

Out of all the current test players Saint, the unseen tag seems to fall upon him. I think he's a great player for Wales and Ryan Jones, Warburton and Tipuric have all played at 6 and I think Wales are blessed to have such depth there.

I think turnovers catch the eye the most. Strangely more so than carrying the ball up. But clean outs, tackles in close and action occurring away from the ball as BB mentioned is a big part of the game. Reading those stats for Hooper surprised me as he stood out more for me when I saw the match and I thought McCaw seemed a lot more anonymous.

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Post by GloriousEmpire on Wed 28 Aug 2013, 8:09 pm

Quade Cooper made more turn overs in the super rugby season than ANY other player.  Talk about unseen work.

Or was that, was turned over most? It's hard to tell.

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Post by MrsP on Wed 28 Aug 2013, 8:23 pm

If all this work is unseen, how do they collect the stats about it?

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Post by alanmackie6 on Wed 28 Aug 2013, 8:27 pm

The point surely is that if 8 forwards are working you will see less of an individual,if only 6
are doing it you see more of those who are.The Great NZ Coach Victor Cavanagh JR.spoke
to two players after a n Otago Match.To Player A he said "Saw a lot of you today"player A
was pleased until Vic said "Who was doing all the graft you should be doing?"then to player
B "Did`nt see much of you today WELL DONE"Vic Cavanagh [BOTH}were the best forward coaches ever.a moral there being called a "fringer or seagull,caused more punch ups than enough back in the day"
Incidentally Reuben Thorne was called "Suitcase"to because his team mates carried him.

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Post by The Saint on Wed 28 Aug 2013, 8:44 pm

kiakahaaotearoa wrote:Out of all the current test players Saint, the unseen tag seems to fall upon him. I think he's a great player for Wales and Ryan Jones, Warburton and Tipuric have all played at 6 and I think Wales are blessed to have such depth there.

I think turnovers catch the eye the most. Strangely more so than carrying the ball up. But clean outs, tackles in close and action occurring away from the ball as BB mentioned is a big part of the game. Reading those stats for Hooper surprised me as he stood out more for me when I saw the match and I thought McCaw seemed a lot more anonymous.
I think it's caught on as Jiffy says it a lot. I think he's a great player for us too and hopefully he won't have to face another long spell off through injury. I'd only consider him, Jones and Shingler as our 6's. Though I'd put Warbs and Tips there over Shingler if it was up to me. The twin open-side is a good weapon but it depends what back-row you're up against.

Lydiate used to be big ball carrier when he was establishing himself as an international back in 2011. Since then he's done less carries and done more tackles and turnovers whether by choice or instructed. I guess because he does less carrying he isn't so noticeable but will find himself high up on the stats sheet. Whatever he does he'll never be liked in Ireland though. Hooper probably stood out as their best player because the Wallabies were so poor. The entire All Black back-row played as well as each other, might explain why it wasn't noticed as much as Hooper.

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Post by kiakahaaotearoa on Wed 28 Aug 2013, 9:02 pm

MrsP wrote:If all this work is unseen, how do they collect the stats about it?
A valid question. Are there unseen pixies evaluating unseen work? How do they communicate with our world? We are not alone...

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Post by Rugby Fan on Wed 28 Aug 2013, 9:09 pm

Back in 1982, Bill McLaren made it into the first edition of Private Eye's Colemanballs collection with a comment about flanker Mike Rafter's unseen work. It was illustrated with a cartoon showing a player standing in a tunnel dug under a ruck.

There's virtually nothing a player can do now which will go unseen by the coaches, given the video analysis tools and GPS data available to them.

For me, unseen work today is less about what happens in rucks and mauls and more about how players close down opposition attacking options through running certain lines, taking certain field positions etc. I like commentators who can spot that kind of action because it's not always obvious in real time. Will Greenwood often picks it up, probably because he was a fair hand himself at that kind of play.

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Post by kiakahaaotearoa on Wed 28 Aug 2013, 9:23 pm

That's a good point RF. Conrad Smith has to do a lot of unseen work to stop Nonu from leaking line breaks.

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Post by ebop on Wed 28 Aug 2013, 9:50 pm

And Nonu's stylist puts in a lot of graft to make his unseen eyebrow work (or not work).

Actually, good thread Kia, because Hooper made at least one clear turnover in the weekend and all of a sudden he was seen as player of the day and dominating McCaw, which I doubt. Good energetic young player, but is he a one dimensional turnover specialist only?
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Post by kiakahaaotearoa on Wed 28 Aug 2013, 9:58 pm

Interesting to see Pocock's and McCaw's stats in the 2011 semi. Pocock is often called a one trick pony but he out involved McCaw in that match. Which is funny because I didn't even remember him playing!

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Post by captain carrantuohil on Wed 28 Aug 2013, 10:07 pm

Seem to remember Serge Betsen complimenting Richard Hill by saying that Hill "came from the shadows, from the darkness". One hard worker's salute to another. I think it's true that Hill, to give an obvious example, wasn't initially the most heralded player of that great England side. People then started to realise that here was someone who seemed not only capable of doing a fair bit of the obvious support play, first-up tackling and ball in hand stuff, but also, somehow, of negating a lot of what the opposition was trying to do. Hence 'unseen'.

The point is well made above, however, that it isn't really unseen work if people start shining a light on it. I tend to think that unseen work is now a synonym for unglamorous grunt work, which is often carried out by the number 6 in any pack. It's a reality, a necessary and valuable one, but also highly capable of being mythologised.

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Post by Jhamer25 on Thu 29 Aug 2013, 12:28 am

All i'm saying is Dan Lydiate 2012 Six Nations Man of the Tournament and he bluddy deserved it. A great player that doesn't really stand out like the George North's, Manu Tuilagi's and Sexton's but you can guarantee he gets through a hell of a lot more work than any of them. He doesn't make line breaks but mainly his work around the fringes is what makes him such a great player; and fringe work doesn't really stand out on a game of telly and therefore makes him one of the best out there at the unseen work.

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Post by rodders on Thu 29 Aug 2013, 9:19 am

That depends, there's unseen work that exists and unseen work that doesn't.

There are certainly myths peddled about some players that don't stand up to closer scrutiny, they get away with fairly average performances on the basis that they must be doing lots of unseen work that is allowing everyone else to perform.

Plenty of players are worth their weight in gold because they excel at the relatively unglamorous areas of the game that the casual observer may not always appreciate - the rucks, mauls, off the ball running etc. but the reality is that this is pretty obvious to anyone who has a good understanding of these aspects of the game and can be easily observed if you wish to do so.

If unseen work, was genuinely unobservable then a player would not get selected on this alone as even the coaches wouldn't see it....so yes to some degree it is a myth, as are certain players who are hyped and defended almost solely on the basis of excelling in it.

Rugby is a simple game so if something walks like a duck and quacks like a duck then its likely a duck and if it doesn't then it is probably something else.
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Post by kiakahaaotearoa on Thu 29 Aug 2013, 10:04 am

How do you account for Reuben Thorne or Todd Blackadder. I'm a Canterbury man but those were dark days...

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Post by BigTrevsbigmac on Thu 29 Aug 2013, 10:17 am

Metres covered(GPS) particularly by forwards would be interesting to me & though used individually by many teams I don't believe the stats are shared with the public.
But this would give a good indication together with other stats as to which players are there or thereabouts near to the ball thus closing down options for attacking sides, making themselves available etc. (unseen work?)

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Post by rodders on Thu 29 Aug 2013, 10:20 am

I don't think so trev, GPS tracking, HR monitors etc. will give an indicator of how hard a player has worked but not necessarily how effective they've been. Quantity of work doesn't always equal quality that's why stats can be deceptive.
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Post by MrsP on Thu 29 Aug 2013, 10:31 am

I agree with Rodders.

Someone who is constantly out of position and arriving just too late to rucks etc might well cover more metres on GPS but not necessarily in a good way.

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Post by Cyril on Thu 29 Aug 2013, 10:33 am

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know.

Simples.

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Post by MrsP on Thu 29 Aug 2013, 10:35 am

How do you know?

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Post by kiakahaaotearoa on Thu 29 Aug 2013, 10:37 am

So which are you Cyril?

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Post by rodders on Thu 29 Aug 2013, 10:37 am

Cyril wrote:There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know.

Simples.
Flip Cyril is really Donald Rumsfeld!
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Post by ebop on Thu 29 Aug 2013, 10:45 am

Are there scales of 'unseen'?

I'm a big rugby fan but have never played so I have to admit that I don't know where to focus my attention sometimes and miss stuff. I'm like a 5 year old kid always following the ball but probably missing a lot of hard work that some players put in clearing players, making fringe tackles, joining tackles, closing space, line out lifting, screens, basically anything that gets done without the ball (except big hits and try saving tackles).

Basically echo exactly what rodders said above. Unseen is maybe a term used when explaining to the uninitiated public rather than those that actually know and appreciate the efforts.
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Post by kiakahaaotearoa on Thu 29 Aug 2013, 10:46 am

Laugh I think all these tools are useful simply because when you're watching a game it's impossible to track what every individual player is doing.

If you look at the thread of the match Hooper stood out for many as the standout player for the Wallabies. Not that there were lots of contenders but he certainly caught the eye. You look at his work rate though and it simply isn't enough. Whether it's seen or unseen, there isn't enough work going on.

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Post by Cyril on Thu 29 Aug 2013, 11:01 am

Sky Sports used to offer a feature for Premiership football where you could follow an individual player (Player Cam) using the red button. I don't think they do it any more and you could only do it for live matches (not on recordings). I think this was one designated player per match.

I never watched it but I guess it was probably pretty boring for the most part. I don't think it's ever been offered for rugby games. It would probably be a right mess and you would likely get a lot more citings!

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Post by rodders on Thu 29 Aug 2013, 11:06 am

Yes I remember that and yes it was boring and not very useful either.
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Post by HammerofThunor on Thu 29 Aug 2013, 11:39 am

As most have said the 'unseen work' is simply the stuff that doesn't stand out. The normal tackle, defending a ruck, attack a ruck (not to turnover but to slow down). Should probably include defensive positioning (closing down spaces, lulling attackers into false spaces) and simple good passing of the ball. You get focus on the monster tackles, or the amazing breaks or turnovers, or long passes that aren't ruled forward, etc.

Of course the funny thing is that if you DO any of these 'seen' things it assumed you don't do the 'unseen' things. And the 'unseen' things are often used to excuse poor performance. Somethings they're show in stats and sometimes not. But people will always use the excuse. The funniest for me is when players are accused of NOT doing the 'unseen' work. How do you know they're not if it's 'unseen'?

EDIT: so the truth is there are things that don't catch the media's attention and aren't made a big deal out of (of course they ARE making a big deal out of SOME 'unseen' work which means it's no longer 'unseen'.)

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Post by IanBru on Thu 29 Aug 2013, 11:45 am

Does the light really turn off when you close the fridge?

We can never know.
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Post by kiakahaaotearoa on Thu 29 Aug 2013, 11:49 am

I asked the milk one day and he went white as a sheet. You don't want to know what goes on in there.

As a former fly half I don't want to know what those forwards get up to. It's all unseen work as far as I'm concerned. Just get the ball out to the glory boys.

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Post by rodders on Thu 29 Aug 2013, 11:54 am

In order for one to see unseen work, it would seem one must first shine the light on the dark arts.
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Post by disneychilly on Thu 29 Aug 2013, 12:45 pm

I thought Luatua did a lot of the 'unseen' stuff really well the last two games. That sort of thing is the 6's job and while he came to the fore in possession with his skill set and physicality, Australia found no purchase around the ruck area. Kaino was the last NZ 6 who offered that and I hope that Luatua ousts Messam as the starting 6 due to that.

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Post by HammerofThunor on Thu 29 Aug 2013, 1:01 pm

IanBru wrote:Does the light really turn off when you close the fridge?

We can never know.
Of course you can. The switch is triggered before the door is fully closed.

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Post by SneakySideStep on Thu 29 Aug 2013, 1:21 pm

A lot of the stats are binary in nature, e.g., you win a line out or lose it, you make a tackle or you don't etc., but they don't give any idea on the quality of the ball or whether the tackled opponent was able to offload etc. I think our champions of unseen work excel in their applications of basic skills: they deliver top quality ball that their team mates can play off; they clear out the ruck and set the ball cleanly; they cancel out the opposition by effective tackles etc.
Also I'd add that much of the unseen work revolves around the ability to read play and be where the action is about to evolve. McCaw, Richard Hill and Dean Richards are/were all very effective in this regard.

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Post by ebop on Thu 29 Aug 2013, 1:41 pm

Good points Sneaky. McCaw seems to be becoming this kind of player more and more. He used to be a lot more visible but I hardly notice him now. I'm sure he's still doing good, it's just unseen. Although he fumbled a bit in the last couple of games and I yelled at him for the first time 'EVER', sorry Ritchie, but catch the flipping ball!!
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Post by ebop on Thu 29 Aug 2013, 2:13 pm

Sorry, this is completely OT. But OMG, anyone seen the Lingere Football League? Puts hitting like a girl into perspective. Them yanks are hardcase and I'm pretty sure it's not a pisstake.
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Post by mr_stonelea on Thu 29 Aug 2013, 2:40 pm

I remember watching the rwc2003 final on dvd where you can watch the match from a ground level camera. ..from that angle you see Richard hill all the time whereas you don't really see him from the normal view

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Post by Sgt_Pooly on Thu 29 Aug 2013, 7:23 pm

Many players get through the hard graft that allows others to shine.

Lydiate isn't really one of these imo. He is a distinctly average flanker that doesn't have much more to his game than tackling.

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Post by BamBam on Thu 29 Aug 2013, 7:30 pm

Blue touchpaper nicely lit Pooly

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Post by rodders on Thu 29 Aug 2013, 7:41 pm

BamBam wrote:Blue touchpaper nicely lit Pooly
Someone had to say it.... Cool 
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Post by kiakahaaotearoa on Thu 29 Aug 2013, 7:43 pm

ebop wrote:Sorry, this is completely OT. But OMG, anyone seen the Lingere Football League? Puts hitting like a girl into perspective. Them yanks are hardcase and I'm pretty sure it's not a pisstake.
Got a link ebop. God wouldn't want his good work unseen.

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Post by ebop on Thu 29 Aug 2013, 9:08 pm

kiakahaaotearoa wrote:
ebop wrote:Sorry, this is completely OT. But OMG, anyone seen the Lingere Football League? Puts hitting like a girl into perspective. Them yanks are hardcase and I'm pretty sure it's not a pisstake.
Got a link ebop. God wouldn't want his good work unseen.
Very true Kia, this would be an example of a seen hit https://youtu.be/cM2s2V8T5KI
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Post by kiakahaaotearoa on Thu 29 Aug 2013, 9:37 pm

Chur bro. Ka pai.

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Post by alanmackie6 on Fri 30 Aug 2013, 7:30 am

The point about McCaw was shown in 2011 RWC question was asked,could NZ win without DC and RM.Well the answer was without DC[ sadly]yes.BUT without RM the answer would have
been NO.

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Post by Rugby Fan on Tue 11 Mar 2014, 1:50 am

Billy Twelvetrees now.

“Billy is doing a lot of unseen work at 12 that takes the pressure of Owen Farrell,” Lancaster said.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/rugbyunion/international/england/10688675/Six-Nations-England-consider-Manu-Tuilagi-as-impact-super-sub.html

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Post by Looseheaded on Tue 11 Mar 2014, 4:02 am

if the pope poops in the woods, does he really wear a hat?

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Post by Scratch on Tue 11 Mar 2014, 4:21 am

Richard Hill was the greatest exponent of unseen work. Last great England back row too.

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Post by SecretFly on Tue 11 Mar 2014, 9:15 am

I laugh the way you all giggle about 'unseen work'.  Hee hee!.  Ha! Ha!!  Wink, wink...if it's so unseen how come we can't see it?  Hee! Hee!

Em................... well....................... coz it's unseen like Wink

You all know how that goes, don't you.  You've all been involved in those debates over the years.  Player lifted sky high right in front of the ref and a good few million people watching big screen TV...he's dropped back down like a spear being stabbed into the ground and what happens?

Correct.... it's largely unseen work that probably didn't happen to a good percentage of the people who watched it happen in brilliant slow-motion detail

There are more examples which I'll leave there as we all know the score.  You guys know all about the 'unseen' stuff that goes on on a rugby field, you've all unseen most of it already over the years at some point or other Wink

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Post by Peter Seabiscuit Wheeler on Tue 11 Mar 2014, 9:19 am

Positioning can play a huge part too. Simply by being in a certain position it can draw defenders creating space or push attackers tighter to the player who gets the wonderful tackling stats.

Coaches will often highlight players as excelling for doing things we arent even aware they are doing....till you notice that cheeky block on the replay.

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