Former Queensland and premiership lock Scott Sattler is worried rugby league may not get to see modern Maroons No.13 Jai Arrow reach his full potential with a mooted shift to the front row when he joins the South Sydney Rabbitohs at the end of this season.
Arrow was one of the biggest names on this year’s player market, and after months of speculation, he finally confirmed on Christmas Eve that he would leave the Gold Coast Titans to join the Rabbitohs on a rich three-year deal.
Sattler is emotionally connected with Arrow’s decision on many levels.
A former Gold Coast Seagulls and Gold Coast Chargers player, Sattler was also the inaugural football manager of the Titans when they joined the NRL in 2007, and is friends with new Gold Coast coach Justin Holbrook after the pair played together at Penrith in the early 2000s.
Scott’s father John was of course one of South Sydney’s most famous and celebrated players, and also one of the founding directors of the Gold Coast Giants in 1988.
But first and foremost, Sattler is a friend and supporter of Arrow who, as a Gold Coast junior, was expected to be the Titans’ long-term captain.
Instead, Arrow has decided his future will be at Redfern, where Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett has earmarked him to fill the front row void created by the retirement of the legendary Sam Burgess.
And while Sattler has no doubt Arrow will be able to handle the transition from No.13 to No.8, he fears being used as a red and green battering ram the way Burgess was may kill off the subtleties of the 24-year-old’s game.
“I am a huge admirer of Jai, both for the way he plays the game and the way he represents rugby league off the field,” Sattler, FOG No.137, said.
“I don’t see him as a front-rower though, I see him as a lock forward, and I think he has the ability in him to become one of the best locks in the NRL.
“I rate Justin Holbrook very highly as a coach, and I think it is a great shame that Justin won’t be able to coach Jai for more than one season – assuming he gets that season – because I think Justin would be able to turn him into a really good, old-fashioned lock.
“Bobby Lindner was one of the greatest locks the game has ever seen, and he had a saying that to be a good lock, you had to be a chameleon.
“It didn’t matter what stage the game was at, Bobby said the lock was the one who had to have the ability to turn into the type of player that the game required.
“If you had to use the ball, you did it. If you had to play tight, if you had to play tough, if you had to play on the edges, you played on the edges. That was all in the space of 80 minutes.
“The lock had to have the ability to do that. We are now seeing the role of the lock returning to what it used to be – more than just being another middle forward, and having the skill to do everything, whatever the game situation demands of you.
“I hate seeing Jai being played as a front rower because I think he is so much better, and has more to offer, than just taking the first or second hit-up in every set of six.
“He is limiting his skills by playing at prop. He has such a beautiful off-load in him, a late off-load, and he just won’t be able to use that playing the role they want him to play.
“I think moving to prop is really going to stifle his game.”
Sattler though said Arrow will easily handle the pressure of moving to Sydney and replacing Burgess in the Rabbitoh engine room, backing him to be a mainstay of the Maroons team for the years ahead.
“I don’t think going to Souths will affect his chances of representing Queensland one way or the other,” Sattler said. “He has established himself in Origin now, and I am sure he will be one of the first forwards picked each year.
“There is some pressure on him following in Sam’s footsteps and having to play in that shadow at South Sydney where Burgess was so good and so loved by the people there.
“But I think moving to Sydney will actually take the pressure off him to a large extent, because all of a sudden he is a fish in a much larger pond.
“Jai has such great values, it doesn’t matter what scrutiny the Sydney media puts on him, he will handle it. Down there, he will be able to just concentrate on his job.”