Raiders fan Josh Harris posted some interesting photos to the Greenhouse Facebook forum on Friday. Photos of the Raiders right side gave more evidence to how the Green Machine might line up in round one.
You can see in the photos that the Raiders have lined up with Curtis Scott and Nic Cotric at right centre and wing respectively. George Williams appears to be lining up at halfback. But what does it all mean?
Before we start it’s disclaimer time. This is one photo of one training session. It’s irresponsible to think this provides certainty over how the Raiders may line up in round 1. But this is a blog, and we’re here to have fun and maybe make some friends along the way.
So let’s get into some rampant speculation.
1. The Raiders aren’t playing it safe
The departure of Jordan Rapana forced a change in the Raiders line up. The conventional response was to simply insert the proven and improving Bailey Simonsson in his place. It was the best way to maintain the benefits of continuity and relationships built.
The arrival of Curtis Scott threw a spanner in that. How do you bring in a new talent like Scott into the 17, manage BJ Leilua’s mercurial talents and bring Bailey along without upsetting the apple- cart?
Moving Cotric to partner Scott means effectively three changes to the Raiders backline than the one we described earlier. Instead of rolling over the continuity, Sticky seems to be backing the talent of Cotric and Scott. It’s a risk, but one that Coach Stuart no doubt understands and is best placed to take.
Scott and Cotric have been spending plenty of time together (according to my Instagram stalking) and seem to get along really well. It’s hard to say that’s a cause or effect of this, but it’s a good thing regardless.
For Scott he slots in at his preferred position, a comfortable shift for the man from Melbourne. Cotric moves to the right, which suits his carry just fine.
2. BJ to the bench?
We have outlined the potential permutations of BJ’s role for the Milk. Initially we thought there were three (BJ at 4, BJ at 14, or BJ at the Mounties).
There is temptation to suggest means BJ at 4 is not an option being considered. We would caution that if BJ is not with the squad (he’s reportedly in Canberra) then it’s hard to say that he’s been ruled out of a starting position. He could simply slot in for Scott when he’s with the squad, as unlikely as that seems.
Update: Josh Hodgson has confirmed that Scott has won the starting position over BJ – at this stage.
However, as we’ve previously noted, if Bj is being moved to 14, he may be back in Canberra working the weight room specifically in order to get the power into him (as opposed to the weight off him that the centre position requires) to play as a rotation forward.
Now this appears to be resolved that BJ won’t be 4. Unfortunately this doesn’t resolve the question of his role in the squad. I still love you BJ.
3. Simonsson and Croker together. Forever?
Bailey and Jarrod played together on that side of the field for 12 games last season, due to BJ’s injury and the rotating cast of Raiders moving through that spot. While it’s hard to say they’ve built a combination by this point, it’s certainly better than nothing. It’s pleasing to think of them working together, but it does mean the Raiders feel a little light outside Jack on the left. But that attack should be given an opportunity to develop, because given the creative talent between Croker and Simonsson, it could be a valuable new angle in the Raiders’ attack, and an important additional source of creativity.
But if it doesn’t work out, there are still plenty of options up the Milk’s sleeve.
4. Williams on the right
This is less contentious as it reflects what the conventional view of how he would fit into the backline. It gives Williams a chance to be the bridge between countrymen (Hodgson and Bateman) and hopefully unlocks the potential of the talent that looks like it will make its living on that side of the field.
It also represents a vote of confidence in Jack and his development on the left. That’s his playground, and it’s up to him to what he wants with it.
Whether all these moves eventuate is still to be told, but it’s hard to not think that this is how the Raiders intend to set up in 2020. There’s more to be gained from preparation as opposed to a smokescreen here. Only time will tell if it succeeds.