The NRL released the new draw today. It’s a much different looking draw than what the Raiders were seeing before the season begun and before the coronavirus threw everything up in the air.
Before we start, shouts to the Greenhouse for having such a comprehensive view of the draw up so quickly. It remains the best place to get your Raiders facts (this is not an ad)
- The Raiders lose FTA games
The last few weeks we’ve seen the broadcasters flex their muscles in regards to their coverage of the league. (We’ve not been complimentary to them, or Peter V’Landys handling of it). The result is a draw that reflects their short-term interests rather than the long-term interests of the league, to the extent that the draw was released on Channel 9 and Fox platforms before it was on the NRL’s own website.
Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in the Raiders’ draw. Last year’s grand finalists go from having eight games on free-to-air to just three, and absolutely zero after round 10’s blockbuster with the Roosters. For comparison the Broncos play three free-to-air games in the first three rounds back, the Knights three in their first four weeks back, the Panthers four in their first five weeks back. You get the picture.
It’s not like the Milk lack for big games in this period. They play the Bunnies, Broncos, Roosters, Storm and Eels on Foxtel during this period.
This has ramifications for the Raiders, particularly with regard to sponsorship, and reflects the broadcasters interest in maximising immediate market share at the expense of ‘small’ market teams, no matter how successful.
2. The Horror Run
The Milk are going to be doing it tough early. The first half of the draw, while they’re playing away is going to be a test of mettle. Storm-Knights-Tigers-Manly-Eels-Dragons-Storm-Rooster-Bunnies is a tough period, and makes those points they banked in the first two rounds all the more important.
If the Raiders can get to round 10 with their heads above .500 they’ll be well placed for the rest of the season. If they struggle for cohesion or fitness early, it could spell trouble.
3. Home games
What’s interesting for Canberra is the ongoing hope that they’ll have home games post round 9. This draw should make you worry about that. For whatever reason, the broadcasters are reluctant to make the journey down the highway to Bruce Stadium (although they are happy to go to Townsville. Better circuit I assume).
Their first six games post round 9 are Roosters, Bunnies, Cowboys, Panthers, Broncos and Titans. They would be keen as all get out to get some of those games at home in front of the good people of god’s country.
4. The dreaded 6pm Friday/Sunday slot
In this year’s original draw the Raiders only had one game at 6pm (after living at it in previous years). They’ve expanded that to two (Dragons in round 8 and Bulldogs in round 16). It’s not as bad as you may have thought, but it reflects the general trend of this draw.
5. The disappearance of short-turnarounds
One of the good things about being a ‘Fox-mostly’ team is that the Green Machine mostly avoid anything approaching a short-turnaround. They have one period of Saturday-Thursday-Saturday, when they take on the Storm, Roosters and Bunnies, but it’s the only time they really have to deal with anything approaching short rest periods.
6. Run home
The other notable thing about this draw is that if the Raiders are in the mix after round 14, they’ve got a very tidy run home. From round 15 to 20 they play Titans, Dogs, Roosters, Dragons, Warriors and Sharks. There’s some very winnable games there, and if Canberra can keep their head above water, and maybe get some home games, they could really use this period to ensconce themselves in the eight or higher.
7. Strength of schedule
While the Raiders have a tough period, this doesn’t appear to be an insurmountable draw. I expect ‘strength of schedule’ geniuses will place the Milk somewhere around the middle of the pack rather than at either extreme.
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