I am a massive Shannon Boyd fan. I mean who isn’t? How can you not like a guy that weighs 130 kilograms and runs like he’s a particularly angry car?
In recent years Boyd, with Junior Paulo, has carried the ‘wind him up and watch him go’ mantle that has been held by such Raiders luminaries as Tom Leroyd-Lahrs, Michael Weyman, Mal Meninga and Sam Backo. Like most, I’ve always been a sucker for those types. You can feel people get excited as they crash into the opposition, and guffaw at the mess that lies in their wake.
And Boyd is apparently on the precipice of leaving the Raiders.
Shannon is quietly having a career year in 2018. Even though he’s continued his role as an impact forward (read: plays 40 minutes and less a game), he’s increased his output substantially. This year he’s up to a career high 102 metres a game – exceeding last year by 9 metres a game, and 2016, when he was picked for representative football, by over 14. He bends the line every hit up and is ending tackles on his stomach or standing more often, which means quick play the balls often result. In a league that is increasingly good at wrestling smaller forwards into disadvantageous positions, having someone like Boyd that change the momentum of a set is critical.
Completely unrelated, this sizeable lad is also playing for a contract and there’s suggestions he’s rejected the Raiders initial offer. He is reportedly being offered 650k a year by a Sydney club. This is a lot of money. But a Raiders side that has recently lost Junior Paulo for slightly more, and may lose Josh Papalii (for probably less) should be worried about their disappearing forward pack.
With Paulo going, Nicholls, Barnett, Vaughan and Fensom well gone (though it’s unclear how much they wanted to leave), the departure of Boyd would unquestionably be a blow to the Raiders. Most teams find it hard to acquire potential representative forwards entering their primes on the free agent market. It would be something to lose three in 18 months.
The idea that the Raiders would simply use that money on another burgeoning star is optimistic. More likely it would go to retaining other players already in the squad. Blake Austin might get his 700k after all. Blake is a lot of things but worth 700k is not one of them.
According to the Canberra Times, The Raiders are reportedly chasing 22 year old Wigan prop Ryan Sutton. Maybe he’s good but there’s a risk to hoping SuperLeague players will easily translate to the NRL (though the Raiders are two for three in recent years so perhaps they trust their skills in that regard).
Another explanation may point to the talent the Raiders have coming through the system. But it would take a braver man than I am to suggest that Liam Knight at 23 will be comparable to Shannon Boyd at 25. Or that Emre Guler is ready to fill the vacuum created by a Boyd departure.
It’s also tempting to suggest that the Raiders may be deliberately trying to downsize. In recent years the Green Machine’s engine room has been easily manipulated by mobile packs. However, that seems unlikely given the Raiders offered Boyd a contract, and have also done so with Papalii. You can also have your views about whether or not the lime green are ever that strategic and I wouldn’t begrudge you.
There is a ray of hope here for the Raiders. In the Lurker’s piece there is a line that sounds like it was basically written by Shannon’s agent.
At 25, he is approaching his peak as a front-rower and unless the Raiders can come up with a better offer in a hurry, he will be lost to them
What’s that you say? We should offer Boydy more money to stay? I wonder who would suggest that to you Mr Lurker.
Going over seems less problematic for the Raiders. With Paulo and Austin off contract, the Green Machine has plenty of money to spread around that they are unlikely to be able to spend on free agents. Keeping Boyd and surrounding him with the burgeoning talent already in Canberra seems the best option.
Boyd is not done with the Raiders yet. The Raiders have a decision to make. Do they want to pay slightly over to keep Boyd, or do they put their eggs in the ‘we can find a replacement’ basket. It will be interesting to see which direction they take.