Round 12 marks Indigenous Round in the NRL and sees the Raiders of Ngunnawal country travelling to the lands of the Wulgurukaba people to play the Cowboys.
The Raiders are on something of a mini-roll. They’ve bumped off the Roosters and Rabbitohs two weeks running, all with a mangled squad and disjointed 17. What they’ve lacked in first string talent they’ve more than covered with sheer effort, with players across the team digging that little bit deeper to get them across the line.
The Cowboys are the other side of the coin. Their last six games have been against top 8 sides, and they’ve lost the last four of those. Coach Paul Green suddenly pulled stumps last week, at a time when at least 3 or 4 other NRL coaches were in far more tenuous positions.
If the Raiders are to win this encounter the early platform will be laid by the pack which has done remarkable things the last few weeks while criminally understaffed. While the media spotlight will be on Bateman and Harawira-Naera the real hero right now is…
Lui, Lui, oh no, you take me where ya gotta go, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Dunamis has been quietly tremendous in the boiler room the last two weeks. While we expect a certain consistent high performance from big Papa we need to acknowledge that Lui has been instrumental in both getting the forward pack rolling over the advantage line but also in turning the tide for the Raiders with some deft one-on-one steals. His straight running (often coming deep out of the Raiders line) is good for 10+ metres nearly every carry. Don’t forget the screamer of a pass he put on for Whitehead to score (disallowed due to Sutton obstruction).
The backline has undergone it’s fiftieth reconstruction of the season, Stuart’s hand forced by the injury to CNK’s hand. Rapana moves to the custodian spot while Scott returns to partner with Cotric on the right (with Cotric now confirmed as a Bulldog in 2021 expect Stuart to keep rotating him wherever he’s needed). Harley Smith Shields has been relegated to the extended bench after his competent showing against Souths.
While the Raiders continue to shine through the dust the Cowboys seem to be mired in the mud. I watched one of their recent games and they honestly looked like two teams mashed together: an ageing group of veteran players alongside young guns, but with no intermediary guys to bind the two into one unit. They remain without key playmaker Michael Morgan. Having said that they did put a scare into the Panthers last round, so the Raiders need to be on the front foot in both attack and defence.
The best strategy for the Raiders is the one used against them by Souths – trap the Cows in their own end and then pummel them until they cough up the Steeden. Wighton kicked some excellent space-finders against the Bunnies (and one aberrant out-on-the-full howler) and it’s these kicks the Green Machine love to chase down before forcing the opposition to bring it out of a corner.
A win here gives the Raiders real momentum, and if they can continue on this trajectory they could end up reclaiming a top four berth come finals. It’s no certainty, but definitely something to dream of.
Raiders by 10+!