The Raiders are in trouble. The Viking longship hasn’t even left the bay, and it’s already taking on water faster than anyone can bail it out. It’s hard to imagine how even the presence of Hodgson could have stemmed the flow of dignity from the squad in the last few weeks.
I’ve abandoned the usual format of the rumble in favour of a more free form approach for this round. I don’t even need to focus on who the Raiders are playing – at this point in time they’re their own worst enemies. IF four straight losses weren’t bad enough there was more pain coming down the line in the form of Wighton’s preseason antics. Fans have a right to be hacked off at this point.
Stuart continues to scramble to find a suitable roster, but it’s already becoming clear that it doesn’t really matter who takes the field. The Raiders have contracted an early season funk, and it may be one that they’re simply going to have to drag themselves out of.
Physicality is key here, or rather the courage to be physical. Too many times in the last four games we’ve seen half-assed arms flung out in tackles, or players making bad/easy choices in defence, without bothering to read the intentions of attackers.
They could try drawing inspiration from the Tigers – across the first four games the Tigers have only conceded one first half try, and in one game (ironically the one they lost) they didn’t let the Broncos cross the tryline once. A team that many pre-season pundits had locked in for the spoon knows how to keep points at bay.
Maybe in addition to physicality there needs to be a renewed sense of urgency. This could possibly be the thing that Stuart was seeking to ignite by dropping Papalii back to Mounties. If a Qld/Aus Rep player needs a reality check than maybe you all do.
We know the Raiders can defend. In round 23 of 2016 they put up one of their best efforts ever, restricting a full power Storm side to just 8 points. It’s this defensive starch that they need to rediscover.
Coach Stuart will be sweating on the outcome of this game. Five straight losses and a fullback in strife doesn’t bode well for anyone, no matter what contract you’re on. With rumours of player movements swirling around the competition the Raiders need to come together as a cohesive unit or risk being picked apart by other clubs looking to snap up a quick deal.
As for the fanbase, well, this is footy. Nothing lasts forever. Some dynasties run longer than others (Modern Melbourne/1960’s St George), but all eventually must end.
Once the tempest passes the Raiders can pull the longship back up the beach and set about mending it.
Raiders can win, but only with hot blood and courage!