Outside the Box Part 1: Elijah Anderson

BY DAN

Are you certain who’ll be starting in the Raiders centers and wings next season?

You could go the ‘conservative’ option like me and assume it will be some mix of Croker, Rapa, Scott and Simonsson. You could look at the young talent and think Harley Smith-Shields or Matt Timoko is ready to rock. Maybe you saw enough in Semi Valemei that you think he’s ready to unleash the power and pace on the NRL. Or perhaps you’re sure Albert Hopoate is about to make a spot his own. Stranger things have happened in the summer break. After all, at the beginning of 2019 none of knew what we had in Nicoll-Klokstad. Now he’s arguably the only certain starter in the back five.

The thing is, we’re all just groping around in the dark. Me, you, everyone outside Raiders HQ just don’t know how far along the young guys are, how much juice is in the older guys legs, and whether Curtis Scott, or Semi Valemei can give us the good bits on the regular. Even the captain admits all spots are up for grabs. The people that do know rarely speak out of turn. It’s a sound media strategy. The only downside is idiots like me spend too much time thinking about what’s going on behind closed doors.

So while we fluff around in these pages, people who matter are busy knowing things that we won’t find out until next year. And while the most likely outcome of all this is that the ‘safe’ version, we also know that sometimes you get a bolt from the blue, someone you didn’t even know about, or didn’t expect to progress as quickly as they did. They put a case in pre-season so strongly that they force themselves to the front of the line. Ask Nic. Or Charnze. Or Bailey. Or Semi. It happens.

So while we’re not sure about who will be where, we’ve been mostly talking about the same people. But there are people who exist outside that prism (or box if you will) that have attracted smarter people than me.

Elijah Anderson is one such person.

As we said before, the Raiders tend to stay mum when they’re talking about the prospects of talent. So when one of them *does* speak, and does so about how Canberra may fill a potential position gap, I take notice. And one of them has spoken.

Peter Mulholland relatively recently compared Anderson to Greg Inglis.

I don’t want to put too much of a rap on him so early but Elijah is a long-striding, lanky speedster who looks like Greg Inglis when he was a kid

Peter Mulholland

Comparing people to Inglis is kind of a running joke to me. It’s like the mid-90s where every vaguely athletic basketballer was given the blessing and curse of being noted as the next Jordan. So we are doing our best to remember the lessons of the ghosts of Christmas past and not get carried away. You can see plenty of Inglis in these highlights packages, but you know, it’s hardly NRL standard. Deciding on a players talent based on highlights doesn’t always work out (shout outs to Luke Page wherever you are). For wingers it’s even worse. You get to see them in space, and get an idea of their acrobatic finishing, but so much of being a winger is hard yards and safety under the high ball. It’s just hard to know. We do know that Elijah though has good wheels, nifty feet mixed in with a good amount of power. Is that enough?

But what really made me curious was Pete’s addition to this hyperbole.

Nick’s boots will be big to fill but we are excited about this kid and he has a lot of potential.

Peter Mulholland

The Raiders have been dropping hints about competition for spots all off-season. First there was comments about moving Charnze to centre, then there was picking up Hopoate and noting he would be competing with Curtis Scott and Bailey Simonsson on the right side. While Anderson isn’t front of mind, the Green Machine clearly aren’t worried about ruffling the feathers of more established players to make sure the best 17 is on the park come round 1.

You may ask how all this squares with Elijah being on a trial and train contract. The vagaries of NRL contracts are as transparent as my cat is empathetic (hint: not at all), so it’s hard to tell if these comments are promises or just threats. But even if it’s “just” a trial and train deal, ask Jordan Rapana how that worked out for him (bonus hint: farkin tops).

I’m not here to tell you Elijah is the messiah (or even a very naughty boy). As far as I know he could be back in Queensland Cup by the time the season starts. I am simply requesting you have an open mind, and keep an eye out for the boy from Mount Morgan (shouts to Darren Fritz!). We don’t know what he could be, but the Raiders aren’t scared of finding out.

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