Week in, week out the Raiders find a way to get the job done (the Panthers not withstanding). Despite having one of the more decimated lists in the league they find a way to either grind out a win against a ranked competitor or finally break their points drought against a cellar-dweller.
A lot of this comes down to individual brilliance across the team rather than a cohesive effort that lasts 80 minutes. Papa’s ankle tap on Fogarty is the stuff of legend, and his teammates are chipping in on both offence and defence.
Still there are periods where control and direction go AWOL – the last 10-15 minutes of the Titans game saw a Raiders side reverting back to silly, rushed, headless chook footy. It’s these periods where Wighton and Williams really need to grab the reins and reel their errant teammates in. Yes, offloads are exciting, but they need to be an organic byproduct of play against a flustered defence, not a forced grab for metres coming out of your own end. This may sound counter-intuitive to some, but escaping your own half is a balancing act – you can’t be too risk averse or you end up getting swamped and kicking from the thirty, but if you get too flashy your liable to drop the ball in the danger zone.
Wighton did display some of these management skills when he bluntly punted the ball into touch in the last ten – it was an ugly kick but it performed the one essential function of giving the Raiders leaders time to read their troops the riot act and restore some order.
The Bulldogs, despite being dead last, are still proving to be something of a pain in 2020. Yes they’re losing every week but they are sometimes forcing much better teams to dig in and work for a win (they have also received a fair few whacks on the scoreboard). The Raiders are sometimes susceptible to the “Gimme” games, and it’s important that they come out with intent and dominate the Berries from the first whistle. I’m not so much fussed about a blowout score as I am about a concise, targeted effort across two halves, rather than a blinding 15-25 minutes in the second half.
Canberra’s mangled forward pack has been pretty tremendous in recent games and the hope this round is for them to replicate what they did against the Titans. Big metres, dominant tackles and savvy offloads are all key to the Raiders scoring. Look for Tapine to continue his primo work at the line (like seriously when he hits it up don’t look at anything but his feet and watch how he works to step through defenders and then use his upper body to drag them with him).
On the personnel side the Raiders find themselves without CHN per his release from the Dogs. They do however welcome youngster Matt Timoko, and I’m sure we’re all excited to see how he goes. This does mean that the Raiders are fielding a somewhat odd bench: 2.5 forwards, a hooker and a debutant centre. Fingers crossed!
Barring some sort of colossal meltdown by the Green Machine Dan should be pestering me to edit his review of a win late Sunday evening.
Raiders by 12+!