This is part of a multi-part look at some of the talent that exists at the Raiders outside the top 30. You can read Part I on Elijah Anderson here.
Xavier Savage is fast.
I mean, I assume you already knew that. Videos of him sprinting down tracks and past defenders have been shared by Raiders fans like a mixture of pre-internet era pornography and Luke Page clips (ok, probably a bad image. My bad. Sorry mum).
There’s a quiet excitement about what *might* be possible when you combine proper actual pace and the ability to hold the footy. Josh Addo-Carr has given us an idea (did you know he’s the fastest man in the world?), but he’s hardly the first. You might remember Commonwealth and Olympic sprint Darren Clarke giving rugby league a red hot crack in the 1990s, and the Raiders themselves signed Horace Dove-Edwin after his surprise second in the 100 metres at the 1994 Commonwealth games (remember them? Tell your kid they used to matter).
It didn’t last long for Darren or Horace because footy is more than being quick, (well, and for Horace the problem is more accurately steroids). Xavier, to his credit, is a footballer first and sprinter…also first? Second? I dunno, ask him. But if you’ve seen any of the films where he destroys unsuspecting youth/park footy players he certainly looks like he knows his way around the field. Of course, as we’ve said it before, but when you watch highlights packages of up-and-coming wingers you see plenty of them making park footy players look silly, and less of how they handle bombs, how keen they are for yardage work, and how well they work with the centre inside them in defence. Savage is young and still developing, and that’s the rub. It’s hard to know whether all this raw, throbbing potential is ready for the big time.
Apart from his talent there’s plenty of things in his favour to make a splash in 2021.
Firstly, opportunity is there. We’ve made this pint on several occasions, so forgive us for rehashing it, but there’s plenty of talent in the Raiders back five, but less certainty over who will play. At this Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad would be the only player you’d happily put a chunk of your hard-earned on starting round one. Outside that, injury, age, inconsistency and development plague all options to a varying extents. It’s the kind of scenario where you wouldn’t be surprised if a singular talent like Savage to come through the pack so to speak.
Youth won’t be held against him. Coach Stuart has shown repeatedly his view is if you’re good enough you’re old enough. Edrick Lee was pushed out the door because there was simply no holding back Nic Cotric. Now Nic’s departure provides the ladder of ‘chaos’ for Savage to climb (shouts to my dude Littlefinger. You got what you deserved).
It’s not an easy path for Xavier though. As a member of the development squad he can’t play top line until round 16 (shouts to the boys over at the Green Machine Podcast for the pro tip). In the meantime, as we’ve highlighted before, there’s still no clarity on what the hell the young players will be doing for a regular game. Xavier won’t be tested in the local Canberra competition, and even if he does push his way into the top team, he’ll face to same fits-and-starts that made Semi Valemei’s 2020 so challenging (and also so remarkable). However the Raiders choose to solve that problem may present a whole other set of challenges.
Talent usually wins out over the long haul, but only a fool would suggest his pathway to first grade, and beyond, is a straight line. Whatever happens in the next few years, my bet is it comes quicker than you think.
You know, because Xavier Savage is fast.
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