Most fans can agree that if your season ends in a game that you weren’t even playing in that it was not a great season. So it was for the Raiders, with Manly’s last gasp golden point win over the Warriors closing the doors to the finals for the Green Machine in 2017.
The Raiders can learn a lot from this campaign. Firstly, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Ricky’s insistence on tampering with a perfectly functioning halves system proved disastrous in the first half of season, and if there’s one thing we’ve learnt this year it’s that Sezer and Austin are two halves of the one entity.
Secondly, the extended forwards list can and should be used as motivation/incentive/warning for the first string forwards to maintain a high level of performance, less they be granted a short holiday to NSWCUP duties. The bench especially should be contested on a weekly basis until a working roster is developed.
In the Melbourne Storm the Raiders face the ultimate in league discipline and engineering. The Storm this year are truly masters of their own destiny. The Raiders have been too, to a lesser degree, but the gap in ability and determination is stark.
Still the Raiders have proven in recent seasons that they can be a real headache for the Storm. There was a time, a decade ago, that we would dread the inevitable Storm game, but nowadays we approach it with a degree of cautious optimism.
This round marks the return of Fan-Favourite-All-Round-Legend Sia Soliola, who easily wins the award for most politically degraded player of the year (fuck you NRL and league media).
I for one sincerely hope that either Sia or one of his peers land a bone rattling but entirely legal shot on Slater, just to remind him of what sport he’s playing.
I also hope that the Raiders can present something resembling defensive fortitude. They may have run in 40+ against the Knights, but they also conceded 28. Not cool.
In the coming weeks Dan and I will present a comprehensive season review, but for now you can sit back and soak up this last round of regular season footy.
VERDICT: Raiders by a try and strong defence!?