Finally! Rapana signs on

BY DAN

The Canberra Raiders gifted fans everywhere an early Christmas present when they announced that Jordan Rapana had signed on for 2021. We’ve been waiting a while for this – the club had been talking about a deal being imminent since July, so it is pleasing that this been resolved. The Raiders’ roster is now locked and loaded for 2021.

We had some theories as to why it was taking so long, but we never wavered from his importance for next season. With so much uncertainty in the Raiders back five, Rapana offers top-class performance on the wing, along with serviceable performance at both centre and fullback. The Green Machine are not short of talent for next season; but they are short on surety. Retaining Rapana means Sticky has one less question going into next year. He may have several gambles on his hands (see Hopoate and Anderson). Rapana is a mitigation to those risks. If they, or Simonsson or Valemei are better than him that’s ok. If not, then the Raiders know they have a proven performer ready to roll.

Rapana also offers Canberra immediate cover for any injury across the back five. In a time when these positions are becoming increasingly specialised, this versatility is a weapon the Milk can use to their advantage. With Elliott Whitehead, it means the Raiders can suffer almost any injury within a game and manage.

Focusing on the utility of his reliability and flexibility ignores the class that Rapana brings to his position. He’s not far removed from being the best winger in the competition (2016-2018). He’s certainly had some leaner years, largely due to injury, and playing out of position. Regardless, he still offers top class skills that the Green Machine are in desperate need of. He’s a quality finisher, safe under the high ball, and is one of the best yardage carries in the competition. With Nic Cotric walking out the door, those skills are even more important.

Rapana also offers important experience. Mentors are good in every step of life, and having them in rugby league is no different. This is clearly part of the plan for Canberra. They’ve kept Sia Soliola, Sam Williams and Jordan Rapana around with younger colleagues. It’s hard not to think that in addition to the certitude of their performance, the Milk think there is an advantage in having them pass on their wisdom to the less experienced team-mates. With so much young talent in the backline, and with Jarrod Croker’s immediate future under an injury cloud, the presence of Rapana to pass on life, and football, lessons to the new talent is invaluable.

As the Green Machine Podcast brains trust have noted (off and on field so to speak), the length of the deal is also of benefit to the Green Machine. The list of wingers who continue long beyond 30 in this day and age is short, and Rapana’s recent injuries would have no doubt been an obstacle had he sought a longer term deal. A single year deal gives Rapana plenty of time to prove himself before we potentially do this dance again at the end of 2021. If, however, his body can no longer hold up to the rigours of top-line footy, there’s no risk for the Raiders.

This deal is great to see. We’d been sweating on that last roster spot for some time now. Keeping Rapana means the Raiders are locked and loaded for next season (no matter what rumours you here). Rapana is the last cog in the wheel. Bring on 2021.

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