We’re going to abandon any type of structure here at the Rumble, heading into the home stretch. The Raiders tried to play to a style throughout the season, a style which was clearly ill-advised and adhered to far too long. To win football games from here on out they’re going to have to chance their hands somewhat, seeing as how playing routine footy is what got them into this mess in the first place.
Some things do need to stay routine, albeit with a sprinkling of determination and initiative thrown in. Defence is the big one. Far too often in 2017 the Raiders defensive line has seemed like a mish-mash of defensive ideologies, players rushing up, others holding the line, while yet others either slide or backpedal. To beat the Storm, like they did around this time last year, they’ll need a cohesive line capable of scrambling at any point where a gap might be found. Many will be praying that Wighton has been sharpening his custodial skills in the in-goal area, as Melbourne are notorious for earning tries and restarts off short kicks.
The semi hyped switch of Austin and Sezer didn’t yield much, apart from Sezer’s end-game input which was much more down to individual brilliance than any kind of positional tactic. If anything it just seems to have switched the distribution problem to the left hand side of the field.
Which brings us to another myth-busting: Blake Austin’s massive drop-outs. It’s more than likely that he’ll have to undertake at least two to three of these against the Storm, and when he does, I want you to watch closely. No matter where the ball lands, the first tackle is always at the 40 metre mark, or closer. A better tactic would be a high, lofted kick with hang-time, or a long, raking drop-out with a chance of a misfield.
There were some positives in from the mud-wrestle against the Dragons. Dave Taylor proved that he is still an effective bench unit, and had the foresight to fall into his final tackle, allowing the offload for Whitehead to win the game. Junior Paulo continues to carry much of the workload in the middle, tiring defenders with his after-contact metres.
The real problem is Melbourne. They’re unlike any other team in the competition. They’re drilled with an almost terminator like ruthlessness, and an ability to plug away at a task until it finally comes to fruition. You’ll never catch Smith and Cronk putting on the kicks that Hodgson was desperately trying to poke through the line last round. They’ll play the high percentage option every time, safe in the knowledge that it will either bring a restart or at least poor field position for the Raiders.
To cut a sad, boring story short it will take something extra special for the Raiders to get past the Storm this weekend. If they do manage to jag a win one feels it will come off broken play at the death, but for that to happen they’ll need to be in it for the full 80
A loss here means Ricky can start playing fantasy coach for the rest of the season (oh wait he already was).
Raiders by a freakish Cotric intercept!