Welcome to week 2 of possibly the shortest season of footy in living memory. If you thought things were on a knife edge heading into round 1, well, they’ve only gotten progressively worse since then. Rugby league seems a distant concern when people are dying, losing their jobs and assaulting each other for groceries. Yet here we are.
Make no mistake, every day brings the chance that the season will be suspended outright. While that decision would indeed be a responsible one given the circumstances it would also have some extremely serious repercussions for a lot of people further down the track.
Usually I’d open a Rumble with words on the Raiders. Today I won’t. The Raiders by and large are OK at this point, as Dan pointed out after round 1. The Warriors meanwhile are essentially either (a) stranded in Australia or (b) excluded from the rest of the NRL season (however long that is). They have made a choice to press on with the season, but they are already at a massive disadvantage, training at unfamiliar and temporary facilities and having no fixed address when it comes to a home ground. If the league is suspended they will almost undoubtedly return home, a move that no sane person could begrudge them.
George Williams was solid in round 1, but there’s clearly a lot of room for expansion in his game. He discovered that the athletic advantages he had over the Super League don’t quite translate as much, but he also showed that he’s got plenty of talent to offer. For the Raiders to get maximum value he needs to connect to his outside men Scott and Cotric. I personally was pleased with his kicking game, in particular the deft chip over the and in behind the defence. It may not seem much but it’s the kind of thing that can have your opponents in disarray quickly as the back three are forced to push up to clean up a loose ball. Dan was happier with his performance, but I’m reserving judgement on Scott for a few more games.
It seems unfair to pick Papalii every week, but the guy is a deadest machine at this point in his career. Need 10 metres? Papa! Need 20 metres, 10 of them after contact? Papa! Need tired defenders swarming and leaving huge gaps in the line? Papa! Josh has always been a stalwart of the forward pack, but it’s been remarkable how consistently brilliant he has been over the last 18 months.
Last week he went close to scoring off Josh Hodgson’s shoulder a few times. Against the Warriors last year he scored a try on that ‘comeback against the grain’ move – pretty much the same try that he scored in the preliminary final against Souths. The Warriors ruck defence was bad last year, and there’s nothing we’ve seen so far that will change that. Watch for Papa to get over the line. I practically guarantee it.
Emre Guler has had the epiphany. Almost every footballer has it in their career – the moment where they go from being raw, undefined talent from the junior stocks to a player that actually understands the craft specific to their role. Guler seems to have undergone this metamorphosis and it looks to be a good thing for the Green Machine. He’s not the only member of this pack with age on his side. Hopefully it’s not an isolated incident and he can continue this weekend against the Warriors.
THE VAUNTED OPPOSITION
Speaking of the Warriors, getting beaten 20- blip by the Knights is dispiriting enough, before being told that you have to stay on this side of the ditch if you wish to keep playing. 2020 is already a tough ride for everyone, some just cop it at different levels.
The always brilliant back three of Roger Tuivasa-Shek, Ken Maumalo and David Fusitua has been inexplicably been broken up by Stephen Kearney. When wingers are so important to set starts, and have such potential in with the new ‘tackling in the air’ rules, it beggars belief that Fusitua will be starting at centre. 2020 stays undefeated.
I’m tired and to be honest rugby league isn’t front of mind right now – although it did bring a welcome reprieve last weekend. If it’s not at the front of my mind, imagine being separated from your family. No one gives the Warriors a shot, considering all that is going on, and how well the Raiders looked in the first 30 last week. Often in the NRL that’s just enough reason to look the other way, but the Milk should be too good here.
Raiders by 10!