Josh Hodgson signed a new deal this week to stay with the Raiders until the end of 2022. This is unquestionably good news. With all the rumour and innuendo surrounding the Raiders’ roster this off-season it’s good to see some stability being inserted into the side. But apart from keeping the number 2 rake in the competition, one of the games best ball players and an all-round legend for the long term, what does this mean for the Raiders future? We have some guesses.
The Raiders style of play is set in stone
By signing Hodgson up til the end of 2022 Hodgson has been identified as the priority of the Raiders spine. This should go a long way to end 2017’s ongoing discussion about who should control the Raiders attack. It’s Hodgson’s team now – if the other halves don’t fit in they can be moved. He will use his subtle array of shifts, deceptions and darts, to earn that most precious of commodities for his fellow forwards – space. Space means metres. Metres mean quick play the balls and that means more space and more metres. A bit of discipline and the Raiders can turn that into a winning formula. Sezer and Austin now have clear order. The middle eats first.
The existence of Kurt Baptiste in the Raiders first 17 has been one place I have always disagreed with the majority of commentators, fans and probably most importantly, the coach. Baptiste is a handy player with an ability to capitalise on any opportunities to run. But I’ve long argued his presence in the 17 was unnecessary. Even worse, the tendency of Coach Stuart to bring him on and shift Hodgson out to lock was detrimental to the Raiders, giving their most creative ball-player less ball with which to create (while also exposing him to unnecessary risk of injury).
As noted by Raiders CEO Don Furner, an extension to Hodgson was only going to come at the expense of Baptiste’s position with the Raiders. There’s simply no need to carry a back-up rake as expensive and accomplished as Baptiste. Any spare minutes can be filled by players like Adam Clydsdale and Erin Clark.
Don before Sticky?
Another interesting subplot of this extension is that it implies that Don Furner’s version of the Raiders position seems to be playing out. Rather than Sticky’s view – that Leilua needs to show a good attitude, and that Todd Carney and Baptiste would be Raiders in 2018 – Furner appears to be getting his way. If this is true it will mean extensions to 4 other key Raiders soon, including Josh Papalii, Junior Paulo and Luke Bateman (cue screams from Rob).
This of course means that the constant rumours that BJ has already signed with the Titans will prove untrue. I guess we’ll see on that.
Sticky’s success tied to Hodgson.
Hodgson’s time at the Raiders is now guaranteed longer than Coach Stuart. Sticky’s extension ends in 2020, and (rightly or wrongly) one would suggest a further extension is waiting for him if the Raiders are contenders in 2018 or 2019.
Given Hodgson is now a guaranteed Raider until 2022, success for Stuart means making sure Hodgson fulfils the potential he has shown these past 3 years, and most notably in 2016. If Hodgson is successful, then chances are Ricky will be too.
Canberra not a drag on retention
Forgive me for being insecure. Over the years many a Raider Junior has grown up before my eyes only to find success with another side. Rumours that Josh Dugan was on his way to Sydney followed him for years before he left. Less so with Todd Carney but others had left before and have left since for brighter lights and bigger cities. We’ve seen it play out over 2017 with rumours around Junior Paulo’s imminent return to Parramatta. And for Hodgson there was a brief murmur about him absconding across the Tasman. The reasons this occur is rarely for football and more often lifestyle. The bright lights of bigger cities can prove seductive for high profile players.
But Hodgson, one of the Raiders’ highest profile players, has chosen to make Canberra his home for a substantial part of his prime. Hodgson has often spoken glowingly about the positives about raising a family in our Nation’s capital. At least in this circumstance Canberra has been a draw rather than a drag.