THE FINAL(S) EQUATION!
This is it. They’ve played 23 games for 16 wins, 6 losses and 1 draw. In those six losses they struggled early on in the season to match it with a variety of teams, from cellar dwellers to finals contenders. Then, they just started winning. Apart from the Broncos match, they couldn’t stop winning – combinations clicked, and epiphanies were had across the field. Even last weeks’ somewhat ho-hum effort was enough to secure that 9th successive victory. Now there’s one final round before the real test begins.
There are some scenarios to run through: if the Sharks beat the Storm the Raiders will travel to AAMI Park in week 1 regardless of the outcome of their match against the Tigers.
If the Storm should reign supreme and claim the minor premiership then the Raiders week 1 destiny will remain largely in their own hands. The chance of a home final against the Sharks is a worthy prize, but there are two obstacles to overcome in claiming it.
The first is points differential: just 5 points separate the Raiders and Sharks (190/196 respectively). The second is a Tigers outfit in 9th desperate to scrape into the 8.
The Tigers themselves face a harsher numbers game – if the Titans can best the Cowboys on Saturday night then Wests can simply phone it in, use it as a training run, whatever. If the Titans lose, then the Tigers are the only team who could force their way into the finals.
So for the Raiders to bag 2nd place they need the Storm to win big, and then they need to win big over the Tigers. Which, if you recall round 8, they did with the greatest of ease. It won’t be that way again. Round 26 brings desperation – some players do dumb things, some do great things.
Here’s hoping all the great things fall the Raiders way.
Fun fact – if the Raiders win this weekend they will have recorded their second highest amount of victories in a season with 17 wins. The clubs best season was the 1995 ARL season when the Raiders won 19 regular season games.
Battle of the Big Boppers
I won’t single out anyone for praise or encouragement this round – we’ve had 23 games to see what these players are capable of. On their best form they can match it with anyone, at their worst they can simply phone it in. With the right attitude they can chew metres through the middle of the field, tiring defenders and creating space for the halves and backline to explore attacking options. The veterans have led by example, while the youngsters have demonstrated skill and strength beyond their match experience.
The Tigers have some very good forwards like Woods, but realistically they shouldn’t be a huge challenge for the Raiders.
Your cue, Maestro
The only certainty here is no Austin – whoever takes up the key spots of 9,7 and 6 will need to be tack sharp and on fire. If the Sharks win expect key players to be rested, but if it’s all on the line then expect it to be Hodgson at 9, Sezer at 7 and Williams at 6, with Baptiste providing bench relief. Clydsdale would be much better helping steer Mounties through their finals campaign. Kick to the corners, dummy half darts, sharp passing and 80 minutes of communication.
Put your Back(s) into it
We know they can do it; they know they can do it. With patience and restraint come great attacking opportunities, so the four on the fringe just need to make sure they defend, and a frustrated Tigers side will surely come unstuck. Catching the footy is also really helpful…
Haters will always hate, but Ricky has done a pretty good job in 2016, and will be looking forward to a winning end to the regular season.
Jason Taylor will be more worried about Robbie Farah jumping him in the carpark.
Power of Three
Raiders – Croker, Hodgson & Papalii
Tigers – Brooks, Woods & I dunno the team lists aren’t out yet.
And so we reach the end of our 26 round journey – thankfully with more highs than lows. Let’s be a little cheeky and ask for a repeat of round 8 😉
Raiders by 60!