First of all, a big thanks to Dan for handling the Rumble last week when I was extremely exhausted and somewhat despondent about the Raiders. Secondly a big thanks to you, the reader, for actually reading this, and our other pieces. 2021 is clearly the year from hell for those who bleed green. After a bumpy first five rounds everything has gone south quite quickly, and there’s almost certainly more pain in store for the wider Raiders community over the coming weeks.
The Milk can’t afford to look ahead. There’s no over-arching storyline here this year, just a set of self contained weekly one-shots. Canberra are going to have to rebuild themselves physically and mentally after every game. In fact to be extremely frank with you, the Raiders should simply abandon any notion of finals. The remainder of the season should be devoted to rebuilding the team.
Stuart has picked what he thinks is his best 17 available, with Sutton, Tapine & Rapana all out injured (Sidebar: V’landys has increased the speed of the NRL, and it’s now starting to have an impact on teams that will only intensify during Origin). These 17 simply have to win this week, or the pain gets worse.
The Bulldogs are the 2021 punching bag of choice, but given the Raiders current second half woes the Belmore boys will fancy themselves a chance to chalk up a desperately needed win of their own.
BIG BOPPER WATCH
Josh Papalii vs Dylan Napa
One is a veteran Qld prop trying to regain his mojo, the other a Qld junior who has flat-lined since he moved clubs. Papa can be devastating when he’s in the zone and the Raiders will need as many metres as possible from the big guy. Napa himself can be a devastating runner, and the Dogs certainly need him to punch some holes in Canberra’s line.
Josh Hodgson vs Any Bulldogs Playmaker
The Sportress is still of the opinion that Hodgson remains the best creative option in the Raiders squad, and it’s his craft and nuance the Milk will need in the second half. I know bugger all about any Bulldogs playmaker except that they’re young – good luck to them against the likes of even an out of form Raiders spine.
BACK IT UP
Sebastian Kris vs Nic Cotric
Kris has been one of the most consistent players in green thus far, in games where more senior players have made some abject choices. If he can maintain output he’d be a strong choice for starting centre in 2022. Cotric meanwhile has struggled to reach the heights he did here – perhaps facing his former side can ignite something in the Doggies backline?
BENCHMARK TO BEAT
Dunamis Lui gets another crack at first grade after rebooting himself in NSWcup. Lui was the steal-king last year and wasn’t afraid to cannonball into multiple defenders. The Dogs have four players on their bench which is the correct number.
LAST TIME THEY MET
The Raiders and Dogs met but once in 2020, the Raiders taking the win by 14 points in round 16.
Raider #62 Peter Davis
Some players have long, decorated careers, while others are in the game but for the briefest of moments. Davis played just ten games for the Raiders in 1985, scoring two tries and finishing with a 40% career win rate.
THE FINAL SIREN
This really is as easy as it gets for Canberra. If they can’t beat the Dogs the recriminations, media furore and gaslighting will only get worse. Ultimately it comes down to those 17 players – can they be bothered to win? I really hope they can.
Raiders by a shock razzle-dazzle 40+