Canberra Raiders’ fans got some good news to start the week with the club announcing the Emre Guler has extended his time at the club until the end of 2023.
This is a pleasant surprise. Guler’s family reside in Sydney, and there was always the potential that the lure of home and more money and guaranteed playing time would draw him north. It’s hard not to think a side like Canterbury or Souths would have looked at him as a potential priority signing. It says a lot about the young man that he has effectively chosen competing, as part of a side but also for a potion, over familiarity and safety. Embracing risk isn’t something everyone enjoys (including me) but Guler is backing himself to make a spot in the 17 his.
Guler is unquestionably a talent. I’ve said this before but the pursuit of Guler is an obviously smart move by the Milk. 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 was only held back by a cruel injury mid way through the year. 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.
More than this though, this signing is important to future-proof the Raiders pack. Guler is just 22, yet to hit his peaks, and will be coming into their prime as other key forwards are moving towards the ends of theirs. It’s both fortuitous and well-managed transition. He is potentially a representative player, and the Raiders will be able to afford them when they are seeking big money. With Corey Horsburgh, Hudson Young and the intriguing talent of Harry Rushton, he could be part of the Green Machine’s nucleus for years to come.
The challenge for the Raiders is the depth in their forward pack is such that every decision to extend or sign a middle forward limits their ability to keep another. Players like Sia Soliola are definitely at the end of their careers but there it’s not clear that other players are similarly close to the end. Hard choices will need to be made in the coming years, specifically as players like Ryan James and Corey Harawira-Naera come to the end of (and potentially out perform) team friendly contracts. Dunamis Lui and Siliva Havili’s deals end at the end of this season, and it’s going to be increasingly hard to keep them in green after this decision.
The Raiders are loaded at the moment, but over the coming years they’ll have to smartly prioritise retention and recruitment. This is the beginning of these decisions, and here’s hoping Hudson Young, similarly identified at the end of last year, as a priority is soon to follow.
In the meantime this is great news for Canberra. Securing the next generation will take time but this is a good first step.
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