The road to premiership glory is littered with the broken bodies of key players. Some teams get hit worse than others, while some weather the buffeting winds of misfortune and retrieve their fallen stars just a few weeks after their mishap. The Raiders injury ward started with Tapine picking up his annual thumb injury, before Rapana and Joey both excused themselves from the big dance. Bateman followed suit and Hodgson hammered home the final nail of the mid-season coffin by doing a Tapine and breaking his own thumb. Throw in the Pro/Con of Papa, Cotric and Wighton all getting their Origin call-ups and you have an extremely depleted Raiders pantry.
So if there was ever a time for a Raiders B team to stand up and prove their worth it’s now. They face a Bulldogs outfit that while competitive during stretches of games still struggles to close out matches with the winning score. The Dogs are currently languishing in 16th and will be desperate to use the Origin period to boost their win tally in order to avoid the dreaded spoon.
The Raiders also need a win, but for them it’s about regaining momentum and staying securely in the 8. If they can manage to stay afloat while everyone recuperates they’ll be in a much better space to launch their end of year run.
If I have one blistering criticism of the Cowboys game it was playmakers running sideways *YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE*. I’m not going into it in the Rumble but if Sticky hasn’t had a stern word with Williams and Sezer about the need to play it straight then the Raiders will be at a disadvantage from kickoff.
Rookie Tom Starling gets his shot at first grade, taking up a bench spot in support of Havili. I’ve got no idea about whether this kid is any good, but I hope that he’s got the confidence to take the reins at rake and inject some life into the Raiders ruck. If he goes wellI’d also like to see Sticky switch Havili into a lock role for the remainder of the match, provided no more personnel dramas unfold.
Who knows if Ricky’s potential line-up is serious. All we can see is one J Bateman at number 21. Don’t play unless you’re 100 per cent John. Horsburgh starting is fun, and Joe Tapine has pushed out the the edge to try and get some major minutes out of him. I don’t know if his fitness is ready. If not, Hudson Young will probably switch back to the edge and let the big men on the bench fill a middle role.
On a final note on attacking footy, I sincerely hope that the Raiders have been focusing on their set plays this week. I realise losing possibly the best hooker in the league doesn’t help, but the stuff served up inside the Cows 20 after Hodgson’s departure was stale and predictable at best. Williams and Sezer need a concerted short game plan to get the ball over the line.
Head to Head
Aidan Sezer vs Keiran Foran. Sezer has been flourishing in Mounties, while Foran has gamely been trying to drag the Bulldogs up the ladder to no avail. Sezer will have everything to prove in Wighton’s absence, and I’ll be expecting a straightened attack and crisp passing combined with his usually solid short kicking game. Foran can be a crafty individual when in form, and the Raiders defence will need to ensure he isn’t allowed to distribute quick ball movement to the Bulldogs edges.
Green Star Award
Papa, Cotric and Wighton. Your absence leaves us a lesser side, but you’ve earnt this privilege with your efforts at club level over the opening 11 rounds. Papa is pretty much a walk-in for Queensland these days, so extra props to Cotric and Wighton for bagging their debuts in sky blue.
The mid-season grind starts here and now. The Raiders need to be ruthless no matter who’s in the 17 or they face falling further behind before the big guns return.
Raiders by a gritty 4!