The Cursed Season

BY DAN

The 2021 season can get in the bin. Then it can take that bin, and get in the sea. Then it can set fire to itself. Then I will tell it to get bent.

In case you’re wondering what’s happening, the Canberra Raiders sprung the fact on us that Xavier Savage would be out for the rest of 2021 with a shoulder injury . This piles on a season that has already seen: Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad hurt his spine, Seb Kris and Ryan James knock each other out, George Williams leave in chaotic circumstances, Jarrod Croker be injured and get injured while he was injured, Curtis Scott get into trouble with the law, Josh Papalii and Joe Tapine’s partners take shots at the coach, Josh Hodgson and Sticky have some apparent falling out (and then falling in), Bailey Simonsson dominate at fullback then seriously injure himself, Jack Wighton hurt his rib so bad he couldn’t continue, which is the first time I’ve ever realised that he can feel pain.

Even Elliott Whitehead, a man who is less likely to miss a game than I am to miss a meal (I once got told like a personal trainer I eat like an athlete but I don’t work out like one), has left a game early, and missed (at least) two more. The Raiders have lost more games to injury than I’ve lost braincells drinking sadness whisky (it’s all just whisky Homer). If this season isn’t cursed I don’t know what is.

That the cruelness of fate and circumstance is taking our last shining light from us now seems like undue punishment given *gestures at everything*. Savage hadn’t even cracked the top off his potential. He was just poking around the edges, trying to find what it was he could do at the top level. We’d only just met his mum, Erica, who’d provided us with the most beautiful family motto that goddam it’s going to take a lot to adhere to after hearing this news. How am I meant to keep my chin up right now? My heart is hurting. We needed this! Shut up I am not being dramatic.

In the long term it will be but a minor setback for Savage. While he’ll miss some time (about 3-5 months according to NRL Physio), he’ll be back for the start of 2022. Hopefully he’ll be fitter, stronger, and have a better understanding of how to compete with the top level, and be prepared as such. I hope it means there will be less expectation on the man coming into next year, but absence makes the heart grow fonder, and it’s already pretty bloody fond right now.

Should Ricky have taken him off earlier, rather than extol the courage of playing while hurt? It’s tough to know. AC joint injuries are usually caused by a single moment of force, and Savage barely was touched after it was clear he was hurt. It seems like something for people to forensically assess while I just be sad that that beautiful swerving run that set up Jack Wighton’s try is all we’ll have until 2022.

By the time you read this Canberra will have already made a decision on who will fill in at fullback (my guess is Jordan Rapana). That Canberra are down their 5th choice fullback says a lot about this season. They’re not even going with the reggies option – Adam Cook just went back to the goddamn Q Cup last week. The guy that started 2021 in SG Ball is out. I’m confused as to why Sticky hasn’t given me a call up yet. I’m not quick but boy will I make that second-man pass on sweep plays sing. It’s even more incredible that Canberra are reshuffling their spine again, in a week in which they have three minutes to put it all together before they put their season on the line (again) against a top four side that pantsed them handily last time they played. How in the hell is this meant to work?

If Rapa gets time at fullback it will mean more time over the rest of the season for either Matt Timoko or Harley Smith-Shields, or both. That’s the only silver linings of this. More players are getting game time and preparing the Raiders not only to transition away from reliance on their elder statesmen, and preparing to compete at a high level as soon as possible. But that feels hollow to rejoice when it’s a 19 year old talent rehabbing his shoulder rather than playing.

In the end we’ll all muddle through. It might mean the Raiders don’t make their traditional late season run, but I was never that hopeful of that. Savage will be ready for next year, and in the meantime we can all adjust our expectations accordingly. I’ve no doubt Xavier will get the best support the club can give him to make sure his shoulder heels, and that he’s ready for next year.

Urgh.

2021 can get in the bin.

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