I’m usually pretty upbeat when writing up the Rumble, but this week I can’t seem to shake an impending sense of disaster. I’m justified in this as the Raiders recent record against the Warriors all falls easily in favour of New Zealand, which is a damning insight given how similar the two teams are in their Jekyll & Hyde nature.
Perusing the team lists however I do see a glimmer of life for the Green Machine (I can’t call it hope because that implies that season long salvation is at hand). Both teams have a significant changes at lock, with the Warriors welcoming back Simon Mannering while the Raiders give Luke Bateman a shot at #13 in place of an injured Shaun Fensom. Bateman, in my opinion, has improved massively over this season alone. Gone are the days when Ricky would bizarrely name him to sit on the bench for 80 minutes, and what we have now is a young player keen to prove his worth in the engine room.
Ricky has taken an extended 6 man bench across the ditch, including Jeff Lima fresh with a clean bill of health and Sam Williams. I can only assume that Williams is there to remind Austin and Sezer that they both need to increase their influence across the 80 minutes. The bench should read as Baptiste, Priest, Lima and Tapine on Saturday, with FPN and Williams as insurance for any training injuries etc.
What the Raiders need to do more than anything else this round is get back to basics, namely – BALL SECURITY! They were woeful against the Dragons, completing sets at a dismal 63%, dropping the pill all over the park. You can bet your favourite jersey that Ricky will have spent the whole week throwing Steedens at Wighton.
Battle of the Big Boppers
The Raiders struggled against the St George pack, and they can expect more of the same from the Warriors big men, especially their three veterans Mannering, Hoffman and Lillyman. Jeff Lima should be a sufficient stand in until Sia returns to the field, but he’ll need help from the likes of Vaughan and Boyd. Boyd especially needs to get his frame into the defensive line and wear down defenders. If Austin and Sezer can work their shit out expect Papali and Whitehead to run amok on the fringes.
Your cue, Maestro
This section is starting to sound like a dull track on repeat – Austin and Sezer need to engage themselves in the play! Austin should be running straight at the line, taking support with him to get the defense in two minds about whether he’ll dummy, while Sezer really needs to up his kick metres in general play, to relieve Hodgson to a point where he feels fresh enough to try a 40/20.
My big call this week – More Baptiste! Don’t have me committed just yet – Baptiste has been an energising spark for the Green Machines ruck area the last few rounds, and seems quite intent on picking up the slack from a tired Hodgson. While he doesn’t have the pinpoint kicking or super situational awareness of Hodgson he is keen and not adverse to frequent dummy half scoots which could catch big defenders scrambling.
Ricky probably went a bit more insane after the golden point fiasco, and no doubt will be extolling the virtues of basic playing skills to his troops all this week.
I had to actually google if McFadden was still the Warriors coach which shows how tenuous his grasp is on his current job, he basically needs the Warriors to make the 8 this year to remain employed in 2017.
Lucky Numbers Player Bingo
#4 Joey Leilua #7 Shaun Johnson
#7 Aidan Sezer #9 Isaac Luke
#9 Josh Hodgson #12 Ryan Hoffman
#10 Luke Bateman #13 Simon Mannering
I want the Raiders to win, firstly because they need it, and secondly so they can worm their way back into the 8. Having said that they don’t usually travel to NZ well, so it’s anyone’s guess what will happen on Saturday – If Sezer and Austin take control behind a motivated forward pack they have a much better chance of grabbing the 2.
Raiders by 4!