Surely one of the definitions of embarrassment must be the consecutive wooden spooners being your bogey team. The Knights have caused the Raiders no end of frustration over the last few years, despite residing in the bottom quarter of the ladder the whole time.
They drew with the Green Machine in their first encounter of 2016, and came dangerously close to derailing the finals tilt later that year.
Then, this year, they finally got their moment, with the Raiders coming off a dispiriting loss to a lackluster Bulldogs outfit. The Knights easily outplayed a broken Raiders side that day. Those two losses easily marked the low point of the Raiders 2017 campaign.
The Raiders are a better side than that, but they are still a long way from peak performance levels. Last week’s effort against the Panthers showed that defence is still very much a core issue for the team (the fringes were well ragged last round).
The Knights won’t have it all easy, missing at least three key players including half Brock Lamb. Assumptions, however, are the mothers of all f@#&-ups, and the Raiders other opposition in this game is complacency.
As the Knights have shown over the last month they are a team capable of winning, and one of the exciting things about the NRL is that there is a chance of an upset every round (just not this game please)
Another frustrating issue, for me at least, is the application of the bench. As Dan noted in his review of the Panthers match Baptiste is being brought on too late, and into a position where his presence negates Hodgson’s effectiveness. The argument that Hodgson is not an 80 minute player is long dead, and it is time to seriously consider leaving Baptiste in Mounties unless needed.
Players in the wrong spot was equally visible in the Raiders last attacking set on Sunday, where both Priest and Bateman were given hitups inside the Panthers 10 metre zone. If the aim of hitups here is to suck defenders in around the goal posts then it is arguable that the likes of Papalii would be better candidates for these plays.
Boyd and Paulo need to be supremely dominant over a young and raw Knights pack. Strong contact with good metres afterwards will help tire defenders, and Paulo can cause all kinds of headaches if he can pop an offload mid tackle.
With finals now an extremely longshot dependant on better teams failing the Raiders need to worry about the little things like ball control and communication.
Lastly I’d like to thank you all for hanging around and reading this thing each round. It’s not an easy piece to write, mainly due to it’s speculative nature, and there’s only so many times I can write about what the Raiders need to do (Dan gets to write about things that have happened!) It also gets hard when the Raiders aren’t playing well, which I think the Sportress team is pretty blunt about.
Ten points to you, the faithful readers.