So the lovely people at STX sent me over two of their new range of sticks to try. These two sticks have different bows but they both have high carbon content. The first stick is the Surgeon 901XT which is an extreme low bow weighing in at 541g. The high up the stick and it has a touch compound on the face along with added texture on the reverse toe.
The first thing you will notice when you start knocking a bal around is the touch compound. When you move and trap the ball the face feels like it has an almost rubbery surface, the compound generates a resistance to stop the ball. The is fantastic for doing tight intricate drags and big horizontal (if a little forward) movements for one handed extensions skills, this is excellent touch gives you confidence when controlling the ball in tight areas, like inside a crowded circle. One thing I do want to call out is that the touch compound can make some skills more difficult, with the compound making the face of the stick so ‘sticky’ any skill where you need the ball to roll against the face of the stick are easy to mess up, e.g. spins on the ball or some drags where you don’t have the ball in the correct position. The stick also features a textured toe, this is great for extra control on reverse, which also gives great additional confidence on the ball on reverse. The stick is very nicely balanced for moving the ball and none of the efforts required for moving the ball felt strenuous.
For me this stick’s huge selling point is how hard you can hit the ball. The sweet spot is just unreal, in all my testing I have yet to find a spot where the ball doesn’t fly off the end of the stick like a bullet. Because this is an extreme low bow it is obviously very easy to lift shots at goal, combined with the wild power of this stick, there is definitely a learning curve, that is something you have to get your head around before you can rifle the ball into corners and not a metre over the bar. The power of this stick is also very easy to use when slapping, and because the stick doesn’t feature a groove (that’s on the RX range) it is very easy to keep the ball flat to the ground, but you can also use the bow of the stick to play a slider pass with some added whip. Sometime else I found very useful was making use of the touch compound for adding spin to slaps hits, this is good for short chipped passes as you can get the ball to spin into your team mates stick making it easier for them to control.
As I have already mentioned in the section about the feel on the ball, it comes with a textured toe, and how nice it is for using close skills. But this is also excellent for executing lifts on the reverse when combined with the thinned toe, it’s very easy for you to get purchase on the ball and use a controlled lift. The sticks hitting power also transfers to upright reverse stick hits and with a bit of practice you can really cannon the ball into the corners. When getting down and unleashing a tomahawk, you will find the reverse edge is very thick and squared off. This makes it great for hitting tomahawks, you can get the same exceptional power as on open stick, the squared edge also makes it very easy to control the height on the shots, this gives you high confidence in taking the ball on you reverse in a crowded circle to make space for a shot or for powering a clearance down the line to a team mate. The reverse edge gave me so much confidence I was comfortable playing reverse passes across the oppositions 25, because I knew I could hit the ball hard and flat across the pitch.
I have just briefly talked about this stick featuring a thinned toe, combined with the added texturing really does make this stick great for lifting the ball on the reverse, but to reinforce the point this stick is great for reverse 3D skills. This also transfers onto flicking shots at goal on reverse as well, you can really fire the ball into the top corners. The thin toe makes it easy to get under the ball and roll the ball up onto the face, this works with the texturing on the face to stop the ball rolling off uncontrollably, this ,eams that you can aim shots with a high degree of accuracy. While on open stick side the head is not as well shaped to get under the ball, but the touch compound means that the ball stays on the head of the stick, so placing shots is very easy. Though the face is so ‘sticky’ it’s easy to release the ball exactly when you want to. The low bow and the angling of the face obviously help with flicking as well.
Dragflicking and Aerials
In my opinion there are five stages to a dragflick (better players and coaches may disagree) they are: The Run-up, the Pick-up, the Drag, the Release and the Follow through. Of these five only the middle three involve an interaction between the ball and the stick, and these are the three stages that I usually base my review scores on as the other two I don’t really change. This stick caused me some issues in that approach, in that I wrote this section of the review and then, while I was messing around at goalkeeper training, I found that I could get even more out of this stick with a slight tweak to the other two stages. So I initially found that the touch compound (is this a drinking game yet?) could make the pick up a little tricky, as I stated earlier if you have the stick at too acute an angle for the collection then the ball doesn’t roll, it almost gets stuck in the turf leading to either dragging over the ball or seeing a drop in power, so you really have to focus on getting the stick into the right position perfectly as there is no way to effectively compensate. The next stage is equally tricky at first as the transition off the touch compound (drink?) to the slightly slicker shaft of the stick can cause the ball to run off if you are not careful (a piece of tape really helps with this issue). And finally the release stage, again going back from onto the touch compound can cause issues, as the ball doesn’t really roll the same. Now with these 3 points in mind and your head around how to deal with them, you can get some awesome power and accuracy on dragflicks, similar to with the normal flicking you have a lot of control around the point of release with the ball clinging to the touch compound until you force it off. You can also use the touch compound area to add a little whip to the ball causing it to spin and curl a little in the air, this means that even if the goalkeeper can get a limb to the ball the spin will make it difficult for them to clear, as the spin can cause the ball to spin off their pads and continue goal wards. My additional finding was that my usual run is very straight, if I took a couple of steps to my left for my run-up then the stick was never at an angle that caused me to drag over the ball or lose power. The change to my approach didn’t make me lose any accuracy or power compared to my normal flicks, because it was a change to my usual technique it did take me a few goes to get the longer drag round to fling the ball into the left corners of the goal. My second additional find was that the release, I found with the grippy touch compound that if I whipped quickly in a certain direction I could add different spin to the ball, whipping up gave more top spin, whipping left gave clockwise rotation (as you look down at the top of the ball), and so on. This made it excellent for making the shots difficult for the goalkeeper to get a firm read on as the ball would dip and curl in different directions. This took a lot of fine tuning to get to a good level, I don’t know how long it would take to get to a really high level, but as a sudden change this could be a great technique to bring out after a few penalty corners to throw the goalkeeper off.
For aerials the stick is very good, it features an extreme low bow, so it is easy to get under the ball. The touch compound means the ball stays on the face till you want to release it, this does make it slightly more difficult to use the bow with the transition as with dragflicking, but as I said a piece of tape really helped with this issue and I was able to whip through with the bow to add more distance. The touch compound really helped with accuracy of my overhead passes whether they were over 20 yards or over 60 yards. I found that because the ball stayed planted on the head of the stick it was also easier to control the angle of the lift meaning I could throw the ball higher or lower, obviously this had some effect on the distance the ball travelled but it was helpful for when it was a ball to run onto or if I needed to drop it onto the team mates stick.
So in summary this stick has ferocious power for hitting and slapping. It has a double edged sword in its touch compound meaning it has amazing grip on the ball meaning you can have a high level of control when using close skills or lifts, even though at times it can feel like it is too grippy and the ball can get stuck. The stick also comes with the best stock grip I have ever used and I didn’t replace it with a BFH pro grip at any point, this is because it is a good quality grip and very thick so I didn’t want to mess around trying to peel away the top layer of the PU grip and leaving the shock absorption underneath and also because when I was testing the stick the weather was very warm and dry so I didn’t have to deal with any wet conditions.