Hello darkness my old friend.
Let’s do this again. You know what i’m talking about. Let’s get optimistic. Let’s talk ourselves into maybe, somehow, we can find a way to sneak into the finals. We’re just a pass, a tackle, a bit of line-speed away. We can put it together. We can play footy. Exciting footy. Dominant footy. Winning footy.
For sixty minutes.
I can understand if you’re a bit over this. I suspect the 17 men on the field are over it too. I would assume Coach Stuart is over it. What’s weird is that everyone seems incapable of fixing that fact.
I feel a bit simple even thinking about watching this game. This hasn’t been a frustrating year. It’s been depressing. It’s been a slow-motion car crash. And every time I think the Green Machine have hit rock bottom they find a new depth to plumb. You can be optimistic about this weekend, but I’m assuming it ends awfully. Because most weeks it does.
Only one team is still playing for the finals, so you would assume that the Tigers would have enthusiasm over the Raiders. And when the men from the West have been up for it, they’ve shown an ability to beat the best. So the Green Machine will be in for a fight.
The Raiders middle men have been disappointing in recent weeks. Shannon Boyd and Junior Paulo have been ineffective on their respective returns from injury. Josh Papalii’s season should be divided into before he played in the middle and after – there’s no longer doubt where his best position is. The quicker Rugby League becomes the better his size and the more his footwork works in the middle.
Joe Tapine should have had a career day last week. James Maloney’s career should have been in jeopardy. Tapine was capable of anything every time he got the ball last week. But the Raiders underused him, as they have done for much this year. The rotating cast in the halves certainly hasn’t helped that.
For the Tigers Russell Packer plays a key role in the engine room, and is surrounded by a bunch of honest footballers. Their defence is tight in the middle and on the edges. I feel jealous.
A Mighty Fine Spine
Poor Aidan Sezer looked cooked last week. He shouldn’t have been playing – his return from a hamstring injury looked premature. But the Raiders don’t really even have enough people to make a proper backline at the moment. He’s the best of the Raiders limited halves options, both in attack and defence. Sam Williams will partner him, and you know. Yay I guess.
Josh Hodgson is all that is good on this earth. We must protect him. If he gets hurt again the Raiders are borked for 2019 and frankly the possibility we won’t be soul-crushingly bad in the future is keeping this whole thing together right now. I’m starting to think we should rest him just for safety’s sake.
Nic Cotric got a bit more involved last week in some fullback type movements. On the right edge he ran a line between Sezer and Tapine on a outside-inside ball movement. It was nice to see. Most of his involvements at fullback have been in yardage work, and if he’s meant to take over from Jack Wighton (either next year or in the future) then he needs to develop his ball play more.
The Tigers spine is probably their strength. Moses Mbye is talented. Benji Marshall always does the smart things.
Sidebar: How amazing is 2018 Benji ‘game-manager’ Marshall? Particularly when you consider 2008 Benji ‘rocks-and-diamonds’ Marshall, or 2016 Benji ‘career-about-to-end’ Marshall.
Luke Brooks continues to develop. Robbie Farah is fine when he doesn’t try and do it all. If he starts stepping out from the ruck to try his patented form of razzle-dazzle it will lessen Brooks’ impact, particularly close to the line.
Put Your Backs Into It
BJ Leilua has had a really good year and it continues to surprise me no one has noticed. He and Jordan Rapana have destroyed the Tigers in recent times, to the tune of 13 tries in their last four matches v the Tiges (according to The Canberra Times). Nothing has happened to change that yet, so you’d think this would be a good sign for the Raiders.
The other side of the field is a bit of an enigma. Williams and Austin operating on the same side with young Brad Abbey showed little connection in attack, and were a downright liability in defence. Not that Leipana have been much better in that regard.
The Tigers don’t have a truckload of talent on these edges, but they’ll be well aimed by Marshall and Brooks.
Off The Bench
I love Siliva Havili, and I reckon with Sia Soliola he gives the 2019 Raiders a real versatility off the bench that will aid them a lot. Luke Bateman and Shannon Boyd are also on the bench. It’s a shame that Liam Knight and Jack Murchie haven’t been more of an opportunity, given the spice is out of the season.
I can’t see the Raiders winning this. Not because they don’t have the talent. They plainly do. Not because the Tigers are good, or a bad match-up for the Raiders. 206-54 puts paid to that. I simply can’t see the Raiders winning because I’ve been hurt too many times. There is no more winning. No more happinenss. Only darkness, whisky and sadness.
Tigers 49-48 in golden point after Raiders lead 48-10 with twenty to go.
(Shouts to @ColinCopeland2)