“Remove the stone of shame, and attach the stone of triumph”
The Raiders launched their 2019 campaign in the blurst way possible, struggling back from a 20 point deficit to overcome an Eels side that was a lot closer to full market value than the Green Machine.
The older and more experienced Eels side ran in try after try, and it was only when BA subbed off his 1st string choices in order to blood some rookies that the young Raiders managed to find the traction necessary to run Parra down.
The second trial game is set to be much closer to the realities of top-flight NRL games, with both the Raiders and Dogs set to give their NRL teams proper a reasonable amount of time on the pitch.
The real draw-card for this match is the Raiders new look spine – Hodgson, Sezer, Wighton and new signing Nicoll-Klokstad. CNK made some inroads during the first trial, and many Raiders fans are hoping he’s capable of filling the hole left by Wighton’s shift to #6.
Indeed it is Wighton who will draw the most scrutiny on this occasion. His first foray into the five-eighth role ended in a form slump, Sticky’s overenthusiasm for Jack’s professional development proving to be too much too soon. Fate, however, walks a long path, and Wighton has spent his time since at fullback developing skills that can be translated to the style of a running half (with a few tweaks).
If there’s one thing he needs to retain it’s his depth of attack. The trait that makes him so unpredictable as an attacking fullback is his sudden appearance in the line, moving at speed. Keen observers will notice that this is the same trait/skill that Austin rediscovered once he moved into a utility role in 2018 (when Ricky had Blake plonked in the halves full-time he suffered from too much stop/start flat footedness).
The mode of play that best suits a deep-running attack is the “pendulum”, where the two halves swing to either side of Hodgson, rarely splitting to go left and right. Keeping them stacked two deep on either side doubles the variables in attack and keeps even the sturdiest defences guessing. Stuart used to let Austin and Sezer play this way before over coaching got the better of him.
Apart from that there’s not all that much for the Green Machine to do. The forwards will hopefully rumble forward, and many fans are keen for their first taste of imports Sutton and Bateman in green (although we’ll be waiting until round 1 for Bateman).
I could bang on about the Dogs for a few paragraphs at this point but the particular opposition is irrelevant in this game – for the players, coaching staff and fans it’s all about making sure all the boxes are ticked: ball control, line speed, ruck discipline, all the little 1% things that have the chance to become aggravating bug-bears in the season proper.
For those of you wanting to watch the game raiders.com.au will be hosting a link of the Bulldogs stream, with the action starting at 5pm on Saturday.