Summer is waning, twilight edging forward each evening. The cricket and tennis have finished, and a few select trees are starting to take on a golden hue. The All-star game has been played, this time ending in a draw (yes Braith, a draw is a result).
It’s almost March.
Before the footy resumes in earnest the teams get a chance to dust off and see who fits into the wider squad list and by extension the starting 17 for round 1.
For the Raiders there are both notable exceptions and inclusions. Jarrod Croker remains sidelined as he recovers from his 2020 shoulder injury. The two Coreys will obviously be out for a few rounds each as punishment for their
extremely dopey and dangerous avoidable DUI offences during the holidays.
The upside is the return of Josh Hodgson, Bailey Simonsson, Curtis Scott, Ryan Sutton and Emre Guler (and others? There was so many injuries last year it’s hard to keep up). Two Coreys aside, Canberra can look forward to a season where the forward stocks have considerable depth – Papalii, Soliola, Whitehead, Tapine, Havili, Lui, Young, O’Donnell, the aforementioned Guler and Sutton and newcomer Ryan James. At full strength there will be tough competition for bench spots. That Havili or Starling will likely take up prime position on the bench early on to help Josh Hodgson ease back will only exacerbate the scarcity of positions.
The backline also sees upheaval – Cotric has left for the Dogs and Croker still needs time off-field followed by short stints to get back to first grade condition (will he play for the newly minted Raiders’ reserves?). This leaves Jordan Rapana as the senior player in the back five, with some serious tweaking to find the right combinations either side of Nicoll-Klokstad at fullback. Scott, Simonsson and Timoko look to be the likely candidates with depth provided by Albert Hopoate, Smith-Shields, Valemei and Sebastian Kris. The Raiders enter 2021 with two understudies for Nicoll-Klokstad in Caleb Aekins and Adam Cook.
The spine is finally back to full capacity with Hodgson back on deck. Wighton and G-Williams (G-Willy? Hmmm) resume their respective roles, while Starling, S-Williams (Swilly? Nah this doesn’t work) and Frawley will all be able to fill in when needed.
The Green Machine face off against the Tri-colours at their original home ground Seiffert Oval. The Raiders famously ended the Roosters dreams of a three-peat before succumbing to the Storm in the following final last year, and you can expect the latte crew to still be a bit sore about it.
The majority of the game will be given over to minutes for freshmen and adjusting to the new rule set that V’landys has rather unceremoniously foisted upon the league this season. The forwards certainly need to have better conditioning from the get-go as a few “moments to breathe” have been removed from play.
It’s somewhat hard to write anything substantial about trial games – they’re essentially exhibition opposed sessions shared between clubs with both sides more interested in shaking off the cobwebs rather than scoring a decisive victory. Having said that the Raiders are well positioned to continue the relative success of the last two seasons – they know that they can match it with other in-form sides across the regular season and into the finals.
As always Dan and I will be here pumping out the paragraphs and we hope you’re as excited as we are about the year ahead! There will be epic wins and the occasional crushing loss but they’ll always be viewed through reasonably green lenses.
RAIDERS 18 SOMBREROS 8