Jordan Rapana yesterday confirmed what most observers had assumed was coming for some time: that he would be seeing out his career in Canberra.
While for second there was a claim that either the Storm or the Tigers would be keen on Rapana, the man himself has told Dan Walsh of NRL.com that:
My manager’s speaking to Sticky and Sticky’s spoken to me and told me I’m a part of his plans. So we’re just sorting that out at the minute. I have no intentions of going anywhere else put it that way. I love it here, this is where I want to be and we’ve got unfinished business here. Until we get that business right, I’m going nowhereRapana to nrl.com
It’s worth pointing out that this position has barely changed all year. Rapana has been clear about his desire to stay in Canberra and the Raiders have been clear about their intention to keep him. It’s amazing that rumours he’d leave even started. Here’s hoping that if the Green Machine win it all this year it doesn’t change his mind.
Presuming the Raiders are not paying big money for Rapana, this is undoubtedly another win for the club. Jordy has been a big part of re-emergence of Canberra as a force in the NRL. From the dynamic, irrepressible partner-in-crime of BJ Leilua, to the (slightly) more circumspect elder statemen, Rapana has been there through it all following his remarkable rise to first grade.
He may not be at the physical peak that he once was, but Rapana remains a weapon for the Milk. His carry remains as powerful as it ever was, and while it’s been a while since we’ve seen him in space (that’s more on the Green Machine’s absent right side attack), his speed hasn’t disappeared. Outside of a few notable errors this season, he’s still an excellent finisher and safe under the high ball. He’s also shown he’s not beyond adding new skills to his bow, as demonstrated by the ease with which he’s shifted into a variety of roles this season, both at centre and off the bench.
In short, the Raiders are keeping an excellent winger for the last few years of his career at what is likely a reasonable price. He is willing to play literally whatever role the club gives him (as exemplified by his willingness to play off the bench earlier this season), and to do so without pouting. He is exactly the kind of elder statesmen you need at the club to help pass on the culture this generation has established to the next.
The major criticism of this signature (if one exists) will be that the Raiders are keeping a player beyond his prime, potentially putting obstacles in the way of younger talent like Semi Valemei, Bailey Simonsson and Harley Smith-Shields. I don’t find this convincing. As 2020 has shown, it takes a squad to compete in the NRL, and building depth across that squad is crucial. Rapana’s ability to play a number of positions means that the Milk are able to nurture young talent through, while making sure they are supported on the field with experienced players around them. Just look at the leaps and bounds that Semi Valemei has taken in 2020. A big contributor to this has been the ability of Rapana to do a decent impression of a career centre, allowing the young Fijian to develop his game in his preferred position.
As importantly, it means the Raiders have some certainty of performance in their backline. As it stands, the departure of Nic Cotirc for 2021 means Canberra are losing one of their most consistent outside backs. With so much young talent waiting in the wings there’s plenty to be excited about. But talent is just that, and it can develop in fits and starts. Valemei’s improvement in 2020 is astounding, but this cannot be considered a constant linear progression. He, or Simonsson, or Smith-Shields, or even Curtis Scott, may not start 2021 with the flourish that we would hope. Rapana provides certainty and insurance for this potential volatility.
And for the rest of us we get to celebrate. Not only that the Raiders have kept a player of Rapana’s quality, but also that they’ve kept a man of his character. Let’s hope he gets that business right and stays in Canberra.
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