Rugby league just keeps getting weirder hey?
By now you’ve probably heard the Canberra Times report that the Raiders will be lending Corey Horsburgh and Ryan James to the Canterbury Bulldogs on a week-to-week deal for the rest of the season. It’s unusual, but hey, these are unpreceden….no I can’t type it. Shit’s a bit different right now.
With regard to Horsburgh, it’s a good situation for the Raiders. Horsburgh has spent much of this season injured, and was probably a bit physically underdone when he was available. After a 2020 in which he spent too much time off the field, it hasn’t been ideal to see him off the field again this season. He needs minutes, not just for his physical fitness, but also for his development as a player. Repetitions at the top level seems important for improvement, and he’ll get plenty with the Dogs, not in the least because they’ll be missing Dylan Napa and Jack Hetherington in the short term (and god knows Hetherington will find a way to get suspended again soon).
You’d imagine Horsburgh would have free-reign to test the expanses of his game, and while I don’t think that will mean we’ll see Big Red on the chip and chase anytime soon, we will get to see him play more of a ball playing role for the Dogs. That means more chances as a link man on sweeping movements (something he’s done a little bit for Canberra), as well as the green light to dump offloads that is so important in Vlandoball, and a definite skill for Corey.
It’s also clear that Horsburgh wasn’t going to get the minutes in Canberra. His injury and inability to get any game time in NSW Cup had placed him in a bind – not fit enough to get on the field, but no way to get match-fit in the meantime. The Raiders have also been relying less and less on big minutes for the middles. As we wrote yesterday, the increased use of Josh Hodgson at 13 has seen the minutes for Papalii and Tapine expand, but opportunities for bench middles decrease. Ryan Sutton, Corey Harawira-Naera and Emre Guler all played substantially less minutes than they can last round, and it seems it’s a trend that Canberra is leaning in to. Simply put, if the Raiders want miles in Corey’s legs, it ain’t happening in green this year without something bad happening first. And if it does, the week-to-week bit means that Horsburgh is not only available, but better placed to perform if called upon.
James was also similarly hamstrung. While he may or may not be with the club for next year (he’s contracted, but there’s rumours he’ll leave for the Broncos), he too needs to keep minutes in his legs over the coming weeks to ensure he’s ready if called upon. It will also advertise James to the wider league community, and should Canberra be keen to move on, it will hopefully be that much easier.
The only downside I can think of is that James or Horsburgh get hurt, but then you can’t wrap people in cotton wool. Neither have had a huge amount of time to build their fitness before they get onto the field for the Dogs, so if pushed too hard they could get hurt. Here’s hoping Canterbury treat them with the same care that the Raiders would. One may also be concerned that it would lead to them not wanting to come back, but Belmore is hardly Bondi, and they’re not exactly the Storm system. It’s likely the appeal of succeeding in Canberra will draw them home.
In effect in the absence of NSW Cup, the Raiders are turning the Bulldogs into the Cup side. A place to ensure potentially key players get the match fitness they need the play if called upon, and the development opportunities they need to get better. It’s a good deal for Canberra.