The Raiders return to NRL action fresh off a bye, memories of their inept loss to the Broncos fading into the past. They’ve got a near full complement of top-line troops that are all well rested, and hopefully, more importantly, well trained.
The Raiders lost their last match through lack of experience – they simply didn’t have the patience to match it with Brisbane and then slowly grind them down. While the Titans are no top 4 side they are in 8th spot, hot on the heels of the Green Machine.
Fans can only hope that the Ricky has spent the last week and a bit drilling two bits of information into his charges: patience with possession, and goal line defence that moves up rather than across. A sane coach would have had the Raiders running the 10 metres from the try line and back, marking their man, as opposed to sliding, sliding, always sliding to failure.
With 10 rounds to go there’s plenty of reason to be excited about a prospective finals berth, but first we need to see a level of maturity across a solid 80 minutes.
Battle of the Big Boppers
Barring Lima, they’re all here: Vaughan, Boyd, Whitehead, Papalii, Paulo, Tapine, Soliola and Bateman. The Titans aren’t shabby on paper either, but the onus is on the Green Machine engine room to prove that they’re the superior pack. One area things need to be tightened up is poor offloads. Too many times the Raiders try it when it’s not on, and end up conceding valuable possession. Hold the ball and take it forward, draw in those defenders and tire them with a heavy workload. When the ineffectual tackles, start, then you can pop the pill.
Your cue, Maestro
I’m going to leave Hodgson, Sezer and Bappers alone this week. Let’s fix Austin. The reason Blake was such a success in 2015 was not so much his running game as it was his level of support. Whenever someone broke the line there he was, perfectly placed to catch that quick offload when his teammate ran out of room.
For whatever reason that aspect of his game has diminished this year, and it’s hurting both him and the squad. Too much lateral action is giving defenders time to assess and wait for him; if he straightens his running he’ll have them in two minds, and then can have options, especially if he can get someone coming through on the inside.
Put your Back(s) into it
Once again the excitement overload got the better of the Raiders backline. While Zac Santo was pretty much perfect on debut, the same can’t be said of those alongside him, particularly once again BJ and Jordy. Yes they ran good metres, but this was overshadowed by the frustration in the first 20 minutes. The Raiders actually had the upper hand here, but poor choices concerning offloads and razzle meant the Broncos could weather the storm and then turn the tide. The backline were also the main offenders when it came to goal line sliding, a cardinal offence.
I really hope Ricky has cracked down on sliding and silly offloads. It’s just that simple.
Neil Henry is enjoying a decent run with a team that many had written off at the start of 2016.
Power of Three
I’ve scrapped player bingo in favour of this new format – I’ll just name three key players for each side.
Raiders – Paulo, Croker & Sezer
Titans – Taylor, Bird & James
This match represents the perfect chance for the Raiders to put practice into play – they absolutely need to shore up their defensive structure, and keep control of the ball while heading up-field. If they can manage these seemingly simple things the floodgates may open up for them late in the game.
Raiders by 8!