All season long Raiders fans have been thankful for the new players brought to the club this season. Whether it be the dynamic running of Blake Austin, the exceptional creativity of Josh Hodgson or the brilliant lines ran by Sia Soliola, league fans may believe that recruitment is a strength of the Raiders.
These fans would be wrong.
This year the Raiders have been lucky. Lucky that the people they originally tried to sign didn’t want to sign with them. And it’s not been the first time. Below are five signings the Raiders tried to make, but couldn’t. And they were damn lucky they didn’t.
1. Kevin Proctor
At the beginning of 2014 it emerged that the Raiders were offering big money to bring Melbourne’s hard-working second-rower on board. Proctor, then and now, offered a good work rate in defence, and handy, if not exciting ball running – almost like Shaun Fensom but on the fringe. But even at the time, people were questioning whether Proctor was of sufficient class to be worth the reported $700k a year that the Raiders were offering him. Proctor eventually rebuffed the Raiders advances, which meant the Raiders had to fall back on dragging Sia Soliola back from the English Super League, for less money and at least the same level of play. Soliola’s excellent defence, heady play and brilliant ball-running have proven a boon for the Raiders.
After it became clear that Anthony Milford was leaving the side, the Raiders went searching for help at the back. For a reported $650k a year, the Raiders thought they had found that help in the form of talented Tigers fullback James Tedesco. Tedesco signed on, only to turn his back after a few days. This forced the Raiders to look elsewhere; this time they found that player already on their team in Jack Wighton. Wighton has thrived at fullback, a position that allows him to unleash his brilliant running and ball-playing ability without the pressure of being an ‘every-play’ ball-player.
3. Nathan Smith
If you’re a Raiders fan you remember Nathan Smith as the lead-footed winger who oddly decided to moon the police in Kings Cross only to be arrested hanging on to a stripper’s pole. He left the Raiders at the end of 2006 and spent many years as a productive hardworking second-rower for the Panthers. Inexplicably it emerged in 2008 that the Raiders were trying to bring him back for a huge amount to presumably play second-rower in a backline that was already struggling to accommodate future club stalwart Shaun Fensom.
4. Ryan Hinchcliffe
If you happened to be watching the Storm play the Cowboys on Saturday night you would have heard Warren Smith relay a most amazing tale. Back in 2012, the Raiders tried to bring back utility Ryan Hinchcliffe for an amount of money that Craig Bellamy had never seen someone turn down. This would have made sense if the Raiders didn’t already have a plethora of undersized second-rowers in the side. Fensom, Thurling, Thompson, Picker, McIlwrick, Harrison and Kennedy were already there. Sure he could’ve played hooker, but was Hinchcliffe a step up on Buttriss, Waddel and Berrigan? Just where was Hinchcliffe going to fit in? And why on earth would you pay him an ungodly amount do so.
5. Michael Ennis
This time last year the Raiders were doing their darndest to sign then Bulldogs rake Michael Ennis to a sunset contract of over $500k to finish his career in Canberra. Ennis, already on the wrong side of 30, would finally bring better-than-average play to the Raiders ruck for the first time since Steve ‘Boxhead’ Walters retired (depending on how you feel about Simon Woolford). Ennis rebuffed the Raiders, leading them to sign young English hooker Josh Hodgson, providing the Raiders with an elite dummy-half who is only 25, and who has been probably the best Raiders recruit since a certain massive gentlemen came to town from Brisbane’s Souths Magpies in 1986.