If you think the Raiders are having a tough 2020 season then perhaps spare a thought (or don’t) for this week’s opponents. The Broncos have gone from unlucky to bad and on to outright cursed. In round 14 they find themselves without embattled head coach Seibold (Covid breach), star forward Tevita Pangai Jr (Covid breach/general lack of brains), trainer Alfie Langer (You guessed it, Covid breach) and a slew of injured first string players.
There’s a saying that an animal is even more dangerous when injured and cornered – the Broncos are certainly both these things right now. Stand in coach Peter Gentle may be able to coax some actual form out of the stuttering side and the players could well take inspiration from a fresh face in the driver’s seat.
Still this is the Raiders game to lose (something that Dan and I are perpetually terrified of). If they don’t get on top of the Broncos early in the game they could well find themselves stuck in an arm wrestle. Their best bet is to apply pressure through repeat sets and wait for the Broncos to crack like they have in prior games – the way to do this is get close to the Broncos line and either score or force another set. Williams should be the go to guy for short kicks into the in-goal area.
Before that you need to actually get into the twenty, and this is where Canberra really needs to impose their will on the match. I honestly wouldn’t be shocked if Starling actually starts in place of Havili, as his quicker service as rake will enable the Raiders to generate much more momentum in their sets. Regardless of who the pivot is the Raiders need to make ground quickly so don’t be surprised if the first few sets explore not just the middle but the edges as well.
This game has all the elements to be a blowout in the Raiders favour, but the worst thing they can do is assume this outcome is a given thing – high completion rates, strong defence and smart attack will all be critical for the win. The Broncos must surely be aware that the Panthers dominated Canberra in the first half of last week, a lot of the torment for the Green Machine coming through the middle as the Panthers big men got on a roll.
The situation in Brisbane seems to be deteriorating by the day, and there’s every chance things could get worse for the Broncos between now (Wednesday) and Saturday evening, when they have to run out onto a freezing and possibly damp pitch in Canberra. It’s in the Raiders best interest to ignore all of this and simply play like they’re not facing a side having its worst season since inauguration.
While a win should never be assumed this game does represent the Raiders best chance to pull all their strengths together and continue Brisbane’s misery in 2020.
Raiders by 10/20/30+!