Tuesday, May 21

Has Jazz Tevaga’s greatest strength also become his greatest weakness?

Part one of a two-part case for moving on two fan favourites at the Warriors.

I was reminded of Jazz Tevaga this week when I read about the passing of iconic jazz musician, Wayne Shorter. If you’re unfamiliar with Shorter, he was a saxophonist and a supreme improviser and would be one of your first picks in any jazz band. Jazz Tevaga used to be a superb utility player and one of your first picks when choosing your game day 17. But what has been Tevaga’s greatest strength may have ultimately become his defining weakness that leaves him in doubt for selection this weekend.  

No one in their right mind would ever question Jazz Tevaga’s passion or commitment to the Warriors club, on or off the field. It’s practically unparalleled. His support for his teammates, the club owner and wife, the coaches, has always been of the highest character and regard. 

Everyone would acknowledge Tevaga has become an instrumental piece of the Warriors puzzle over the years, plugging gaps in the teams skillset and bringing an energy off the bench that often lifted the team. 

But despite making some headway in his error rate and discipline issues in 2022, Jazz now remains more of a liability to the club that an asset. I acknowledge the idea of anyone suggesting the Warriors are better off without Tevaga is going to leave a sour taste in the mouths of the fanbase. So just hear me out and if you disagree by the end, then you’re entitled to your wrong opinion. 

Being forced to watch Jazz playing prop at various stages of 2022 was one of the most stupefying and depressing sights any hardened Warriors fan has been forced to endure. It wasn’t his fault that he was played there, but as the smallest prop in the NRL, the results of the experiment spoke for themselves. 

However, one positive that emerged was that it managed to curb Tevaga’s error rate and discipline issues that have haunted his game, and often contributed to momentum shifts that would cost the Warriors competition points. 

Having overcome an injury, Tevaga is available for selection this weekend, but with the arrival of Mitch Barnett, Marata Nuikore and Dylan Walker, along with Tohu Harris shifting to lock and the undeniable form of Jackson Ford, Josh Curran and Freddy Lussik, it’s hard to see where Tevaga now fits in, barring a horror run of injuries. 

Tevaga is a respectably adequate player, which means he won’t struggle to pick up a contract with another club. Coaches enjoy having a versatile player like Tevaga on the bench who can provide adequate cover against injuries during a match. But what often happens in doing so, is they risk diluting the potential potency and impact of their bench with specialist players. Because while a utility is often needed as cover for injury across several positions on the field, just as often – they aren’t. Which means you end up with a player coming off the bench and doing an adequate job but they’re up against superstars of the game like Kikau and Korisau. That’s fine for the odd game, but not for a season. 

Tevaga never used to be just adequate. He had x-factor, bringing something to the game few other Warriors could – unexpected and reliable offloads. Tevaga rose to prominence as a nuggety offloader, who bought an energy from the bench that frustrated opposition. Those offloads would create second phase ball, allowing the Warriors playmakers like Shaun Johnson to take on the broken opposition defensive lines – and they loved it.  However, since teams figured out how to combat the predictability of his offloads, Jazz hasn’t had many answers. Frustrated, he ended up forcing offloads that led to costly errors. But with injuries piling up, the coaches saw Jazz as a Mr. Fixit and used him to cover at hooker, lock and second row. 

As a lock, he’s mobile and tireless on defence. He is quick off the line which helps put pressure on the opposition attack. And yet, most of his tackles lack genuine punch, so he often does the clean up work and invariably gets penalised for poor technique. And because of his diminutive size, he lacks the power to get up and play the ball at speed, which stalls the teams momentum to make valuable metres into opposition territory because the opposition have time to reset their defence.

At second row, he lacks the weight or pace to bend opposition defensive lines, and hasn’t yet learned to run great lines on attack.  As a hooker, his passing is inconsistent and he doesn’t have the speed out of dummy-half to split defences open, which makes him predictable. In short, he can frustrate opposition more than intimidate them, yet he’s often been outclassed in that area too. He’s a jack of all trades and master of none. 

Without the ability to consistently and reliably offload, Jazz no longer brings enough to the game that once made him a threat. But what Jazz also brings to the club is those intangible off-the-field qualities that we don’t see. 

So, unless the brains trust at the Warriors feel those qualities are enough to make up for what he no longer brings on the field, then maybe it’s time for the club to consider letting him go. And in doing so, they will free up some much needed money toward contracting some big boppers required to set the platform, which the Warriors need to invigorate their new and improved spine. 

Part two will dissect another fan favourite who is no longer living up to their hype. 

Disclaimer – THE 18th MAN has no links to the Warriors players, owner or staff. The opinions expressed are that of an independent observer of games and club generated media.