Tuesday the 30th of June was the day the Raiders flavoured part of the world decided to punch us in the guts and then poke us in the eyes. The first blow came with the news that cult hero John Bateman had decided his short stint with the club was over, with either a Wigan or Bulldogs jersey looming large in his future. As we folded over half winded coach Stuart leaned over and delivered an eye-poke in the form of a team list that STILL HAS CURTIS SCOTT IN IT.
I don’t know why Ricky is hellbent on tormenting me/you/us but I’m having flashbacks to the period where he use to play only three of the four bench players and then tell us that it was key development for the fourth guy who sat on his butt for 80 minutes of football.
Curtis Scott has been a spiralling nightmare for fans over the last four rounds, his reticence for contact and the obligatory errors becoming more pronounced with each game. I’ve often talked about the football epiphany, but right now Scott is enduring the very opposite.
Somehow Stuart has decided not to remove him altogether, rather opting to limit his initial impact (or damage?) by placing him on the bench. This leaves the Raiders at an instant disadvantage – the forwards have been struggling to find their own form over the last month or so, and this round they have to get the job done with only three rotational players.
The other impact will be on Oldfield, a reasonably competent player who slides in and out of the 17 on the whims of lady fate. Will he be able to settle knowing that he could get yanked the moment Sticky wants Scott to inject some non-existent spark into the attack?
The backline has undergone another shakeup with Cotric moving across to the right to link up with Oldfield, leaving Simonsson paired with Croker on the left. The logic here is obvious with Stuart using his two biggest wing units to hopefully plug the holes in the right side defence, while the seasoned Croker tries to cover on the left with young Bailey.
Tapine returns to the side in the lock position, with Hudson Young slotting into the vacated second row spot. The starting forwards really need to take it to the Dragons – too often in games they’re being swamped by the counterparts, struggling to find territory. The fact that Siliva Havili has been a standout forward coming off the bench is both a testament to Havili’s work ethic and the woes plaguing the rest of the engine room.
The Dragons seem to have fixed some of their early deficiencies, racking up two wins from their last three games. The Raiders can ill afford to take them lightly or they’ll be staring down the prospect of dropping out of the 8. If Canberra does have one thing going for them it’s that they finally get to play at home on a pitch that will be in much better condition than the churned turf of Campbelltown.
Expect the Dragons to follow previous teams game plans and kick to the corners in an effort to make the Canberra backs work the ball out – ball security and completion rates are a critical area of improvement for the Raiders at this junction.
I could bang on endlessly about all the things the Raiders need to do but ultimately they just have to start playing footy like they know they can. Previous iterations of the Green Machine kept a 12 year hoodoo on the Dragons, maybe they can starts new one here.
Raiders by a much relieving 10+!