“Death by a thousand cuts” describes the slow but gradual destruction of something via an accumulation of small but numerous injuries, that on their own are of no consequence but when tallied prove fatal.
For the Raiders 2021 is “Death by repeated whacks”, some of them self-inflicted. The lion’s share of them have been injuries to key players, starting with Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad’s bung neck in round five and culminating with the news today that young gun Xavier Savage is done for the season with a shoulder injury.
This news puts a damper on the Green Machine’s recent achievement of back-to-back wins, a feat which has felt near impossible for much of the season. After getting whacked by the Titans Canberra managed to stomp an off Manly at Brookvale and then give the Sharks a reasonably comprehensive serve in the following game.
It was the Sharks game where Canberra actually showed signs of real energy for the first time in 2021, some of it no doubt sparked by the incisive running of Savage. Just when it looked like the wind was turning to fill the Raiders’ sails the goddamn tiller fell off the longship.
To make matters worse the Raiders face a pretty in-form Eels on Thursday night. Whereas Canberra folded 44-6 to a rampaging Titans pack the Eels calmly bundled out the Gold coast side 26-8. With the exception of a one point loss to the Panthers the Eels have dominated all their recent games (admittedly against bottom eight sides, but look where we are).
Injuries mean changes, so you can expect to see Frawley partnering Williams again, while Rapana moves to fullback with Harley Smith-Shields named in his stead. Hudson Young and CHN (deservedly) remain in with Whitehead out, with Stuart building a bench comprised of Starling, Timoko, Soliola and Tapine. Normally I’d be critical of Stuart under-stocking his forwards but given the casualty ward we have Timoko is actually a half decent choice.
So what do we want to see from the Raiders? Definitely more of the running from Young and CHN on the edges, especially if there are anymore offloads to be had. I don’t imagine Parramatta will be as accommodating as the Sharks were on this subject, and BA will have no doubt made his troops aware of the Shark’s suffering caused by Canberra’s second phase play.
Isaiah Papali’i had bragging rights over Big Papa after these two met earlier this year and one rightly assumes that Canberra’s main enforcer will be keen to return serve.
I personally hope to see more of Frawley’s short kicking game. Canberra have been less than exemplary on set plays in the twenty, but at Brookvale Frawley’s grubbers absolutely strangled the life from Manly.
More minutes for Tapine wouldn’t be amiss – he was tremendous against Manly and could easily pump out big numbers if he’s allowed to stay on for a stint that’s 40+.
Defensively the Raiders have their work cut out for them. If they give Parramatta the easy opportunities they gave the Sharks then they may be facing an insurmountable scoreline by halftime. Some defensive pressure is eased by the absence of Mitch Moses and Tom Opacic.
If there are two Parramatta players for Canberra to target it would be Shaun Lane and Waqa Blake. Lane is often guilty of poor ball security and due to his height is open to a good up-and-under tackle from a smaller player. Blake on the other hand is very susceptible in defence (and therefore should be targeted on any sweeps down his side).
It’s a big task for the Raiders – they’re 9th to the Eels 4th. They’re yet to claim a truly big scalp this season, maybe the Eels might be the first?
Raiders by a hard-fought 2 after Papa kicks a 40m field goal!