The Raiders hit their first reality speed bump on the 2020 premiership highway in the form of an overly prepared and enthusiastic Knights side that had clearly done its homework. The Knights desire to win coupled with Canberra’s malaise led to a mostly one-sided affair, frustrating for the players, coaches and fans.
Round 5 presents a chance for the Raiders to demonstrate a capacity to learn and adapt, something they’re going to have to do on a regular basis this year. The Green Machine’s mobile forward pack was soundly outgunned by the Novocastrians, and they need to make it clear to other teams that this won’t be an ongoing scenario. The only thing Wests should series a wall of green and little in the way of yardage.
On the flipside of this is the need for space – the Raiders creative trio were smothered on Sunday, leading to rushed passes and panicked decisions. They needs beachhead created by the forwards from which they can swing the second rowers and backline into the play. If they can bend the middle of the Tigers line they can draw fringe defenders in, creating overlaps and defensive mismatches that favour them.
One can also only hope that Ricky has spent the week reinforcing the importance of momentum: too often the Raiders started tackles with forwards receiving passes while standing still and almost parallel to the play-the-ball, a cardinal sin in any adult grade of footy. The forwards need to be talking to whoever’s distributing the ball, coming onto it with a good head of steam.
Finally, defence. For all their misadventures in attack this is where the backline really need to step it up. The most important factor here isn’t even a physical, tangible skill. It’s faith. Faith that the man outside you will stay out, faith that the player either side of you won’t rush up on the first pass leaving you stranded against a sweeping attack. The Raiders are one of the best defensive units in the comp when they want to be, but defensive maturity is a lot harder than rash impulse.
The formulas are simple:
Space/time/momentum = attack.
Faith and communication = defence.
If the Raiders can get back to these basic foundations they’ll increase their completion and posession, giving Wests less time to have a crack at their line.
Raiders by 12+!