A Lose Lose Situation

BY DAN

Often when a player leaves his side it’s for the best. While his previous side may hurt, at the very least it’s a win for the side that gets the new player. It’s a rare situation where a player’s move is bad for both teams.

Yesterday it was announced that Shannon Boyd is leaving the Canberra Raiders for the Gold Coast Titans. This is profoundly upsetting for Canberra, who lose the last of their 2016 star-studded prop rotation, with Paul Vaughan having left in 2017, and Junior Paulo returning to Parramatta at the end of the year.

The Raiders are going to miss this guy

This leaves the Raiders forward pack profoundly changed. This side was once laden with the type of huge forwards that can bend defensive lines, draw defenders to the middle and create momentum in the hardest of sets. The only remaining big bopper is Josh Papalii, who’s position with the club is uncertain.[1]

Particularly if Papalii leaves, the Raiders forward pack is going to profoundly miss Shannon Boyd. He runs like an angry hippopotamus, thrusting his heft into the line, bowling over would be defenders (just ask his new team mate Jai Arrow). His metre numbers are substantially improved in 2018 and for the first time in his career he’s averaging over 100 metres a game (105.8). This despite coming off the bench for much of the season to accommodate Paulo in the starting line up. And he’s young.

Without him much of the weight (pardon the pun) to make the hard carries for the Raiders falls on Papalii and emerging star Joe Tapine. Papalii’s move to the middle is well-timed, and if he stays with the Raiders he’ll be relied on to do the things that Boyd has done in recent times for the Green Machine.

Given Boyd has left for what at least appears to be an affordable 600K a season, this seems unequivocally a bad result for the Raiders. Perhaps they have faith in their young stocks in Emre Guler, Liam Knight and Jack Murchie. Perhaps it represents a change to a more mobile pack. Tapine and Luke Bateman seem to be long term placeholders in that pack, and in combination with Elliot Whitehead and Sia Soliola it certainly emphasises defensive ability and mobility more than previous iterations. But it seems unlikely to me that the Raiders have made that decision deliberately. After all, they have seen how desperate packs like the Eels are for people that can bend the line.

So it’s clear the Raiders will miss Boyd in 2019.

But here’s the catch. This could well hurt the Titans too. Now, in a vacuum taking on Boyd is worth it. We said why above – he’s an angry hippopotamus and everyone wants one of those. But for the Titans his cost isn’t just his salary, it’s the opportunity cost – every dollar spent on Boyd is a dollar not spent fixing the rest of the side.

They have a bunch of money and talent already in their forward pack. Arrow, Ryan James, Kevin Proctor and the newly minted Jarrod Wallace represent an effective and strong pack. But for the Titans, they curiously see a lack of size in a pack that includes 2 current (and likely 3 shortly) representative forwards.

You could argue that while everyone needs a ballrunner like Boyd, they actually don’t need him that much. They will have a good pack regardless of his presence. If there is a weakness to this groups it’s that they can tend to have poor edge defence, hardly something that Boyd will fix.

And they have desperate need at other places on the ground.

For starters they could be using that 600k to fill their other ball-player position. While Ash Taylor is in the top ten in try assists for 2018 (mostly from kicks which should worry the Titans), the next best Titan is Kane Elgey (with four), and he was deemed so out-of-form he was dropped for Bryce Cartwright. Cartwright also isn’t the answer, unless the question is “who do opposition ball-players like to target”?

Or perhaps they could think about their outside backs? Dale Copley has the most line breaks of a Titan back with five, which puts him at 29th best in the competition, as good as Raiders hooker Siliva Havili. Phillip Sami has 33 tackle busts, the most for a Titan and also 29th in the competition.

For the Raiders this is a profound departure that will be felt beyond 2018. But the Titans too face a situation in which they may regret this signing. Lose-lose situations are rare, but this could end up being one.

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[1] But he’s rumoured to be staying. Who knows though.