So Sunday night games hey? Waiting the whole weekend for footy is not ideal. So here’s some random thoughts to tide you over until six o’clock.
1. BJ has been great this year (and others)
I get it. BJ gives away some dumb penalties, and occasionally he tries stuff on offence he probably shouldn’t. So you find that frustrating. I do too.
But BJ has been possibly the most underrated Raider of the past few years. He’s a beast on offence. He creates points out of nothing with his partner in crime Jordan Rapana. He does yardage work with his fellow backs to get Canberra good set starts. He plays as an extra forward when the engine room needs it. All of this is so valuable.
This year he has added really impressive defence to his resume. In the past his combination with Blake Austin had been so porous and problematic that it was sometimes hard to know who to blame. This year, especially with John Bateman in tow, he’s shown he can make the right decisions, supporting the much smaller Sam Williams in his grind against the size sent his way. It’s been a massive part of the Raiders’ improvement on that side of the ball.
2. Stay with John Bateman
I am so pumped about our newest English recruit. He’s been great in defence as we mentioned. In attack he’s been a jack of all trades, showing a willingness to take hard carries, ability to use his feet close to the line to get some space, and even use his pace and dexterity to make breaks. His outside-in 45 degree angle run back towards the ruck is *kisses fingers*.
He’s still new and teams haven’t worked him out yet. They will and he may have a flat patch later in the year. So when that happens I want you to remember the guy is a rare find. He’ll work it out.
3. Papalii the leader
Papalii’s performance this year has been somewhat ignored because of the more heralded was efforts of Bateman and others. But Big Papa has done everything you would want to lead the more mobile green pack against bigger oppositions.
I feel like he’s taken every difficult carry a Raiders’ prop has had to take, and more often than not he’s turned it into metres and a quick ruck. He’s excelled in post-contact metres and has bent the line so often we’ve barely noticed Paulo and Boyd left.
Papa doesn’t strike me as a big talker. But his willingness to do the hard work has to be a good example for his younger teammates.
4. Bench depth is an unexpected find
Smart rugby league types looked at the Raiders’ 30 this year and wondered what they’d do with significant injuries. After Papa and Tapine where was the power? After BJ and Rapana where was the outside flair?
Well the roster management has proven that all wrong. The emergence of Horsburgh and Young in the middle has meant first graders like Emre Guler, Luke Bateman and Jack Murchie have all watched the season from the sideline. What’s more, an injury-plagued start to the season by Joseph Tapine has barely registered on the radar. Bateman, Whitehead and Sia provide such flexibility that it feels like Canberra could weather any problems they might face.
In the backs the early season absence of Rapana gave Bailey Simonsson vital experience, and the return of Michael Oldfield soon just adds to the options the Raiders have at the back. Oh yeah, and that Nicoll-Klokstad bloke has been ok too.
5. Civil War is silly
The last thing worth mentioning is the starting seven position. It’s been weird to watch it be such a source of consternation in the Canberra fan-base.
We’ve got a position on who should be seven, as I’m sure you do. But it actually shouldn’t matter that much. As we said earlier in the season; the success of this side is more about Jack and Josh than it is about Aidan and Sam. The seven position in this set up is more about not getting in the way than it is about being the centre of attention. So everyone should maybe just take a chill pill and enjoy the ride whoever wears the seven jumper.
Carn the Green Machine!