The Kyrgios case of Latrell and Lomax: Star duo need to put what’s best for the team ahead of individual interests


Over the last two weeks while I’ve been watching the footy I’ve been reminded of the career of Nick Kyrgios.

He is an incredibly talented tennis player. People across the world love watching him play tennis; not just for his ability but for his fiery and competitive nature on the court.

But Kyrgios has had a complicated career. The bottom line of it appears to be that while Kyrgios is extremely good at tennis, he doesn’t really love playing tennis all the time.

Or perhaps he once loved tennis, but the gruelling schedule of being a pro has slowly chipped away his love for his favourite game.

There is speculation about his imminent retirement, which Kyrgios has quashed, but it’s fair to say that his career has not been as straightforward, or even successful, as some might have imagined given how talented he is.

For me, Kyrgios has always raised the questions as to whether an athlete should continue to do something or play in a particular position just because they are good at it?

That’s the link to rugby league and its especially relevant for two players in the headlines right now.

This week it was announced Zac Lomax signed a four-year deal with the Eels from the 2025 season.

I assume it is for Lomax to play in the centres. Parramatta sorely need some speed and impact in that position so it’s a welcome signing. But is centre Lomax’s best position, even though that is the position that he wants to play? Perhaps not.

In recent weeks, new St George Illawarra coach Shane Flanagan has shifted Lomax to the wing, against his wishes.

What’s curious though is that Lomax has not kicked up his feet and refused to play. In fact, Lomax has been playing better than ever. Even when the deal with Parramatta was close to being inked, he had one of his best games of the season against the Wests Tigers.

I’ve been surprised and impressed by the way Lomax has handled being shifted to the wing.

Nick Kyrgios playing at a tournament in the United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

I would argue that Lomax has been in career-best form since moving to the wing and it’s for that reason that I’m puzzled about the move to Parramatta (even though as an Eels fan I am delighted).

His team has started winning, is finally looking like its building toward something and Lomax is making the highlight reel every week.

Even though Lomax wants to play centre, should he stick at it on the wing given how much it improves his teams fortune?

My view is yes, because everything looks a lot shinier and is made easier when a team is winning. The Dragons’ fortunes improve when Lomax plays on the wing.

But who knows what happens when he moves to the Eels next year?

The same could be said about the situation at the South Sydney Rabbitohs with Latrell Mitchell.

“Everything he touches turns to gold!”

Lomax scores the first of the afternoon ????

???? Watch #NRLTigersDragons on ch.502 or stream on Kayo:

— Fox League (@FOXNRL) April 14, 2024

There is clearly a lot going on at Souths at the moment and there is not one party to blame.

But Mitchell has decided in recent seasons that he wants to play fullback.

Mitchell is an incredible player that could have impact in almost any position you put him in. But he was one of the best centres in the world. I still think he could be one of the best centres in the world again.

He is an exceptional player, but I would certainly not rank him as one of the best fullbacks in a competition boasting the likes of Reece Walsh, James Tedesco and Dylan Edwards.

Last weekend, due to Mitchell’s suspension, the Bunnies decided to blood youngster Jye Gray at fullback.

I liked what I saw of Gray. He still has a lot to learn but showed plenty of speed and enthusiasm in the Bunnies loss to the Sharks.

Should Jason Demetriou still be at Souths when Mitchell is due to return back from suspension, what does he do?

Does he continue to play Mitchell at his preferred position of fullback, drop Gray back to reserves and hope for the best?

Again, my view is no. This is a team sport and part of playing a team sport is doing what is best for the team. If Gray’s positive form continues it gives Demetriou the opportunity to play Gray at fullback and put Mitchell in a position where he can have more impact.

I may have started with a parallel to Nick Kyrgios, but I’m not exactly comparing apples with oranges.

Tennis is an individual sport, where players make their own decisions about what is best for their own careers. Rugby league is a little bit different and in some cases, perhaps like the ones above, the team needs to come before the needs of the individual players.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.