The Canberra Raiders announced that Matt Timoko had extended his time in Canberra for an extra two years beyond his current deal. This means all up, he’ll be in Canberra until at least the end of 2024. It’s another step in the right direction for the Milk in ensuring that tomorrow is brighter than today.
Matt Timoko is already an exciting prospect. In limited opportunities in first grade he’s begun to establish himself as a damaging ball-runner and sturdy enough defender. He’s brought an ability to break and bend the line to Canberra’s attack that simply isn’t particularly common on the park right now. He’s done this amongst some chaotic performances by the Milk, and his ability to take hard carries at important moments and find space between defenders has been noteworthy.
His success has made it a surprise that he’s currently behind Jarrod Croker and Seb Kris in the depth chart. He’s averaging just under 100 metres and 3 tackle breaks a game, which puts him only behind Jordan Rapana in the back five in terms of ability to make a defender miss. He may or may not have pace – he’s never really been given much open space in first grade, but his ability to get between defenders and to shed tackles is a critical tool that Canberra simply do not have enough of now. Defensively he hasn’t been perfect but he’s also been just as successful as anyone else playing outside the target on Sam Williams’ back. 4 missed tackles (and 52 made) is hardly poor, and that will only get better as he gets more experience and continues to refine his skills (and plays in a more robust structure). It all shows a physical and mental maturity from the man that suggests he’s ready to contribute more now.
The length of this deal is pleasing. It shows a level of faith in Timoko’s development trajectory. Again the Raiders roster management has been better than their on-field performance here. The deal is conspicuously longer than Curtis Scott’s deal (while it still exists) and finishes at the same time as Croker and Kris’ deals do. Given Croker is unlikely to play out that deal, and Kris is likely at the club for his low-cost depth and utility value, it feels to me as though Timoko is effectively being identified as one part of a two-head talented monster for Canberra to play in the centres over the longer term. The other part of that is Harley Smith-Shields, who’s signature is noteworthy and outstanding. I am certain the club is doing their best to keep him at the club, and I hope we can hear something in the near future.
Timoko’s signature is also important because he has a future proof game. Given the debacle that is Vlandoball and his administration, players need to be able to contribute in multiple potential realities. Next year the rules might roll back, or V’Landys might double down. Given some sections of the media are backing him to the idiotic hilt, and the obvious fact that the rule changes are trash, there’s not a lot of clarity about what the player of tomorrow needs. Timoko is fit and fast enough to manage in today’s footy, and he’s strong enough to succeed in a game with more physical competition to it.
The Raiders continue to build a roster for the future. There is bevy of young talent locked up in Canberra in recent weeks, which should give succour to the dark days of having to actually watch the games (*laughs* *cries* *eats sadness chips*). This is part of a longer-term sustainable approach to building a roster to compete beyond the current era. Savage, Timoko and hopefully Smith-Shields et al are part of the future backline, with Guler, Rushton and Young good matches in the pack. There’s a few critical decisions left over the coming months (i.e. the future of the hooker and halves), but there are better times ahead in Canberra.
It’s good Matt Timoko is going to be a big part of that.