Dan, or someone in our sports chat group, pointed out that at that point in time the Raiders were favourites against the Storm. In a week that saw one veteran forward have 8 screws inserted into his face and a young gun receive news of an 8-12 week rehab it certainly didn’t feel like much is going the Green Machines way. The casualty ward is chock full of engine room talent: Soliola, Bateman, Guler & Horsburgh. That’s at least $1.5 million in cap space sidelined for either an extended period or indeed the season.
Which means the Raiders need to go deep into the pantry like a stoned teenager in search of something sweet. They’ve started by choosing to blood youngster Kai O’Donnell. I personally know little about him, what I do know is that he’s about to receive the ultimate crash course in first grade footy. Curtis Scott has finally been put out of our collective misery, with Rapana returning to the 17 by taking up a(nother) utility role on the bench.
To say that the Raiders’ forwards need an impactful game is an understatement. The Storm pack are ruthless and any sloppiness in defence will be duly exploited. The likes of Papalii need to remind the opposition of why they’re considered rep material.
The backline too has shifted, with Cotric moving back to the left side to reunite with Croker. This leaves Oldfield paired with Simonsson on the right, which is slightly unnerving – Oldfield in particular will have to be spot on with every defensive read he makes. I will not be surprised if CNK spends a lot of time roving to this edge during defensive sets.
One of the critical factors for beating Melbourne is completion – if you start dropping the Steeden you might as well pack up and go home. The Raiders have been struggling with fifth tackle options in recent weeks and it’s important that they complete sets properly rather than just ad-libbing on the final play. Counter to this is the need to pressure the Storm, particularly Smith, without giving away penalties.
The Raiders caught the Storm unawares back in round 3 – the same won’t happen this time. Melbourne have adapted to the new rule changes, and the Raiders are quite a different team to the one that put in such a good performance (one assumes Scott has been dropped for psychological reasons as much as performance woes).
I could bang on about attack, structure and all the other facets but at the end of the day the Raiders simply need to turn up and play football. A win would be good before facing the Roosters.
Raiders by 4 after a 79th minute intercept try!