The life of a backup


It was revealed last week by James Buckley in the Canberra Times that while Jarrod Croker is out, George Williams will take the kicking tee. This is a smart decision, built with the future in mind. The life of a back-up kicker is rarely one of preparation, but Williams, for once, has time.

Being a back up kicker to a standout talent like Jarrod Croker is a thankless task. Come in and do just as well as the first string, and people might notice, but mostly barely comment. The Raiders have been lucky in the recent past, with both Aidan Sezer and Sam Williams proving stellar kickers. George Williams takes the reigns this year, thrust into the limelight by the captain’s potentially elongated recovery from a shoulder injury suffered in the preliminary final.

Williams obviously won’t be as accurate as the Croker. While the Raiders captain has a career percentage of 70 plus over millions lots of attempts, Williams has only had limited opportunities in the English Super League. He kicked 69 goals over six years in that competition (niccccceee) compared to the 815 the Crookwell conquistador has nailed during his career. Croker made more conversions in 2020 than Williams has his entire career. That’s the nature of being a backup kicker. You don’t get many opportunities to build your skill, and you don’t get much time to prepare for the big time.

That’s the biggest upside for this current predicament. Williams has had an entire off-season to hone his craft in the knowledge that Croker would be an iffy start for round one. If the Raiders manage some points in their trial match, he’ll even get a few in-game warm ups so to speak. Instead of a few extra kicks here and there, Williams has all summer to prepare.

There’s an additional benefit for the Milk; the decision to install Williams is future focused, preparing them for a future where Croker might not be available (or may not be chosen) for the first string side. However you feel about Jarrod’s position in the starting side, he’s now 30 and no longer the guaranteed a long-term spot he once was (just ask Sticky, who effectively recently said all positions in the backline were up for grabs). There would have been a temptation to pick Rapana as backup too, but his position in the starting line up is similarly tenuous and he’s even closer to his football mortality. Bailey Simonsson was another forward-thinking option, but as much as I hate to admit it, his position in the starting line-up isn’t as solidified as Williams’.

It seems perfectly straightforward in hindsight, but it’s good that the Raiders have made the correct, future-proofed decision.

Now all that’s left to do is see how he goes.

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