Already critical

BY DAN

This week Hudson Young and Sebastian Kris go up against possibly the most damaging runner in rugby league. David Fifita has quickly established himself as one of the Titans, and the competition’s most dangerous players. And yet with a *crosses fingers* healthy Young and Kris, the Raiders stand a chance. For two players who weren’t guaranteed a starting spot (Young) or even a roster spot (Kris) in January, it’s an astounding turn of events.

Before the season (and during last), there was an ongoing conversation about where Hudson Young fit. For many, his agility as a runner meant he was most suited to playing in the middle. The arrival of New Zealand international Corey Harawira-Naera for many resolved the dilemma of how to fill the hole left by John Bateman’s imminent departure. In these pages however, we were strident that Young was the best solution. There were a range of reasons for this, but primarily it was driven by Young’s potential (something recognised by none other than Bateman himself), his keenness for the battle, and of course, his rock solid defensive efforts on the edge. This defensive prowess had been established over two seasons for the Raiders, where he’d handled difficult situations (including filling in after a Bateman injury in Wagga 2019, then managing rotating casts outside him in 2020) with great aplomb. Any fan knows that edge defence has derailed many a Green Machine side over the years, so quality at that spot has always been a priority in our eyes.

Young immediately demonstrated why in round one, holding a rampaging Luciano Leilua in check in a tough match up. Then he and Curtis Scott made the Sharks side that had just put 40 plus on the Dragons look anaemic. In round three he was out, injuries happened and all of sudden we all learnt just how important edge defence is to Canberra’s success.

Seb Kris wasn’t really in discussions of the starting side before the trial game. We noted that he was a bit of a dark horse, but more to make the top 30 rather than the top 13. Then in the trial game he got the starting nod, looking very flipping comfortable and then we all stood around and went ‘wait, is this going to happen?’ It did, and he proved that running deliveries is the new training the house down. We noted at the time that he emergence was a recognition of his defensive capabilities as much as anything, but it was pleasing to see him take some damaging runs in round one. As we said at the time, Ryan James comeback received a lot of attention, but (as we wrote) it was heartening to see Kris return to the top grade with such vigor.

It took two very good games and suddenly questions were being asked about whether club legend Jarrod Croker could walk back into his starting spot. Such was Kris’ performance in those games, that when Hudson Young succumbed to the knee injury he picked up in round two, a spot was found for Kris at second row. He was defensively sound enough and a strong enough runner that he was preferred to an international second rower, and a host of other options that were available to Canberra. The only problem was when he departed the game early after a head clash.

Both Kris and Young are named this weekend on the right edge to be responsible for taking down David Fifita. Canberra’s first line of defence will be holding the middle, but at some point the Titans will get a roll-on, Fifita will get a bit of space and all of Raiderdom will be looking to Hudson Young and Sebastian Kris to hold down the Raiders’ right edge. If you asked people about that scenario two months ago, many would see it as a sign that something had gone very wrong for the Milk.

Instead the success of Young and Kris are small matters for celebration. Where questions had once existed – would the Raiders ever replace Bateman, would they find a set of backs to support their monster pack – they now have answers.

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