It’s being billed as a replay of last year’s grand final but this game is anything but that epic and bittersweet encounter. Lady Fate has taken to the Raiders with a blunt scythe, cutting down key talent nearly every game over the last three rounds. It’s depressing how much talent and cap space is currently sidelined for the Milk, and it’s showing in the team list with the recall of players who are, to put it kindly, a bit shit right now.
If there’s some good news for the Raiders it’s that this game is potentially the hardest of the year (or the lowest of the low points depending on how pessimistic you’re feeling). After this there’s a string of cellar dwellers and fellow mid-fielders to deal with. Given that a battered Raiders side came within a try or two of reeling in a dominant Storm team they should feel confident about dealing out some beltings at the back end of the season.
The Roosters, thankfully, are also not at full strength, with Verrills and Radley out for the rest of the year. For nearly any other team this would be noticeable but the Bondi boys have more than enough third party deals and putt-putt bets to paper over the cracks. Their reserves call-up Ikuvalu bagged 5 tries against the Cows, a worrying sign for any defence that bleeds points on the edges.
There have been some good signs from the Green Machine. Against Melbourne the forwards put in way more effort than proceeding games, and the attack was noticeably crisper and quicker. As Dan has pointed out they’re still nowhere near full offensive capability, but every now and then a glimmer of the 2019 highlight reel shines through.
There is every chance the Raiders will lose this game. They’re down on form, down on troops, down on luck. The Roosters are nearing the top of the ladder. Only once in the history of the Rumble have I told you readers that the Raiders would lose; you didn’t like it. A loss on Thursday would be ok, provided the 17 in green had a fair crack at it for 80 minutes.
2020 is not our year. From Australia Day onwards the Raiders have been dogged by strife and misfortune. There have been previous iterations of the Green Machine far worse than this that have pulled rolled gold wins from nowhere, so it’s not beyond the realm of expectations.
You just gotta visualise how you’re going to beat your opponent.
Raiders by 4!