When the rumours begun that Curtis Scott might be coming to Canberra you would have been forgiven for being sceptical. Years of players using the Raiders as leverage in their negotiations to get more money out of their home clubs, or agreeing to terms only to pull the old switcheroo, were enough to keep guards up. But as Channel 7 news, the Daily Telegraph and the Canberra Times have reported (and the Raiders have now confirmed), Scott is on his way to Canberra. Scott is talented. He’s young. He’s got his whole career ahead of him. He’s precisely the kind of player Canberra never could attract.
Traditionally Canberra has had to look where most teams wouldn’t. In the mid 1980s, while other teams in the New South Wales Rugby Football League were stealing from each other, they raided the Brisbane rugby league to deliver their first golden era. In the late 1980s and 1990s they started getting Kiwis before it was standard practice. They went to Fiji for players, Papua New Guinea and then more recently England to find talent. Recently recruitment manager Peter Mulholland talked about how he’s looking for talent un rugby union (what talent is there) in New Zealand and Fiji (oh ok then). Always the purpose has been find talent where others won’t look. Sometimes it hasn’t worked out. For every Noa Nadruku there’s a Horace Dove-Edwin. For every John Bateman there’s a Jordan Turner. Forays into stocking the cupboard with local talent have been noteworthy for the number of players that stood the Raiders up.
The decision to chase Curtis Scott – a noted up-and-coming talent – was a change of tack. The Raiders were now elbowing their way into the discussions that previously only big clubs had dared to tread. It was audacious, and to be honest it seemed far-fetched until Scott actually seemed interested in coming. The Storm even rolled out Cam Smith to basically beg him to stay, and he still decided to come to Canberra?
That’s not to say the decision to get Curtis Scott is an out-and-out winner. We’ve expressed the last few weeks the lack of clarity as to how he fits into the roster with BJ Leilua (and I guess the next few days will answer whether they do in fact fit together). There’s a real question to ask how the money has been spread between him and George Williams, and whether that cost the Milk Jordan Rapana (it seriously makes me sad to not have him on the team). The story of players leaving Melbourne with high expectations and delivering nothing is told by recruitment managers to their grandchildren to make them behave. Scott may end up being just fine, which I suspect is not what the Raiders are paying him for.
What a world. Are the Raiders a destination to be? It may be premature to say so. It’s likely driven by their 2019 success, and a drop off in 2020 will no doubt put them right back where they were.
But the decision to chase him, and the ability to get him, remains noteworthy regardless of how he performs. 2019 gifted the Raiders many things. The ability to compete for talented recruits is a real change. Let’s hope they use the power well.