First a heads up for changes next year. The Rumble in this form will most likely end with the Raiders season and not return in 2022. There are a few things driving this: a manic child in my life, general old-age fatigue and the fact that much of it just ends up being a rehash of the game just gone. I was so exhausted last week I wrote three paragraphs of this game before realising my error and foisting the rest of it on Dan (who nailed it with the Gold Coast gag)
We’re still not sure if another weekly thing will take its place, or if we’ll conjure up more varied content for you.
But now to more immediate issues.
The Raiders are in trouble. Proper “the longship has been struck and is taking on water” kind of trouble. Charnze gone until next year. The Horse out until round 19/20. Curtis Scott stood down indefinitely. Smelly out for a week. Simonsson’s gone for four-six with a bung toe. Jack and Papa are off at camp.
To say that team morale is at an all time low is an understatement. The apathy displayed against the Titans was beyond pathetic, with seasoned players eyeing the ball like it had just tested positive to the Delta variant. Fans in attendance were absolutely entitled to leave before full time (the irony of Sydney folks having a crack about early departures is that you actually have to be at the game in order to leave it, an idea somewhat alien to a population of a few million).
If the Raiders serve up more of that at Brookvale Manly will simply eviscerate them. The Silvertails have been putting the hurt on spooners of late and they’re no doubt keen to boost that points differential heading into the home run. Even without Tommy T it could get messy.
The Raiders need to find cohesion, and one the places that starts is individuals owning their ineptitude. Semi Valemei deserves a serve for constantly flinging himself out of the line to no effect, as does Harawira-Naera for standing still like a plum while units such as Fifita savage Williams.
Then there’s the forwards. There’s no Papalii this week to establish a beachhead. No Smelly to help shore up his edge. The guys are going to have to get it done the hard way. Metres are a must – out of all the forwards only Papa and Sutton hit triple figures last week.
Congratulations are in order for Xavier Savage, making his genuine debut as opposed to the administrative blunder against the Dragons (can you believe we lost to those jerks!?) Canberra desperately need him to be in the same range as Nicoll-Klokstad when it comes to positional awareness. We don’t expect him to have the defensive organisational skills but we do need him to be able to cover off a grubber or slide to cover off a try-line sweep.
Hudson Young also makes a welcome return, having dropped in and out of the side all year. After his cracking effort in 2020 it’s frustrating to see his progress stifled by a combination of lesser form and Stuart’s penchant for erratic team lists.
Matt Frawley gets the nod over youngster Brad Schneider, once again the short term need for success overriding any long term development goals. An astute coach would realise that he has some players already with a foot planted firmly in the retirement zone, and that V’Landysball is very much accelerating this process.
I could waffle on about select Manly players but all you need to know is that they’re a cohesive, consistent team who have rhythm and most importantly of all faith in one another’s ability to be in the right place at the right time, making the right decision most of the time.
So what can Canberra do to give themselves a fighting chance? Kick early and deep, but not out, and force Manly to get back and start sets from inside their ten. Talk to each other. Help in where they can. Move up together. Get up quickly and frustrate the likes of Lewis. Make it hard for Manly to concentrate. Get Dunamis to pull off a couple of steals. Play a bit of footy.
Maybe bleed a little green.
No prediction, just a reminder to be moderately nice to one another.