The Next Generation

BY DAN

In an otherwise quiet offseason for God’s football team, the Canberra Raiders have been busily ensuring they set themselves up for the future. The latest step in this is becoming clearer, with Emre Guler set to re-sign with the Green Machine, and negotiations beginning with Hudson Young, as reported by David Polkinghorne in the Canberra Times.

This is an obviously smart move by the Milk. Guler is a young prop yet to make the leap. Locking him for an extra two years beyond 2021 is an intelligent move for several reasons. Firstly, he’s quite good at footy. In 8 games in 2020 he averaged 100 plus metres with good post contact metres (about 40 a game) and relatively robust defence. He’s suited to the changing game, with enough lateral mobility and fitness to withstand a “faster” game in defence, as well as the ability to use his footwork close to the line to get to his belly and earn quick play the balls. At just 22 he’s yet to hit his prime, which he’ll be on the precipice of when time comes for the deal after this one. By that time the Milk will have a fair idea just how good he can be.

Keeping Hudson Young around may be even more important than Guler. Young has had a mostly brilliant start to his career, and has shown his value to the club across a multitude of positions. His already proven that he’s a capable choice of filling in for John Bateman on the Raiders’ right edge. He’s demonstrated he’s also an excellent middle forward given the opportunity, utilising an unending motor and quick feet in the line to tear through the line. He had 7 line breaks this year, which was more than any Raider forward not named Elliott Whitehad). He averaged 95 metres a game, despite shifting between a variety of roles off the bench and in the starting line-up.

Young’s versatility was such a bonus, both week to week and within games (more than once he substantially changed his role in-game to cover an injury), and his defence was as robust at every position. He has plenty of space for improvement (as we highlighted here) but in your humble scribes opinion is a representative footballer if he continues on his current trajectory. It’s early days in the contract negotiations with him, but this is an important signing to make.

If Canberra can retain both Guler and Young it puts them in a strong position for the 2021 season. They are balanced, and able to withstand whatever trajectory the game takes. If the relative pace of the ruck continues to increase, then players like Young, Joe Tapine and Corey Hawawira-Naera provide the Milk with the ability to play faster and faster. Guler, Papalii, and Horsburgh are all agile enough to keep up, and have the requisite foot and ball skills to take advantage. But if defences adjust, and the middle the Raiders are likewise able to adjust, and their array of big boppers will have no problems taking advantage. With everyone on deck it creates a fierce competition for places, something that is both a symptom and a cause of a well-managed roster.

More than this though, potential signings like Guler and Young future-proof the Raiders pack. Both are only 22, yet to hit their peaks, and will be coming into their prime as players like James, Soliola and Whitehead are ending their careers, and Papalii hits the very back end of his prime. It’s both fortuitous and well-managed transition. Both are potentially representative players, and the Raiders will be able to afford them when they are seeking big money. With Corey Horsburgh, and the intriguing talent of Harry Rushton, they could be part of the Green Machine’s nucleus for years to come.

Of course, this all relies on the people signing on the dotted-line so to speak. I guess we’ll see if that occurs. But for now the signs are looking good that the Raiders are securing the next generation.

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