Choosing a halfback for the Raiders to target is like choosing between being hit in your head or your guts. It’s less about which is better, but rather which will hurt the least.
The latest stomach punch of this chase to emerge is Mitchell Pearce, as reported by Caden Helmers at the Canberra Times. This is a speculative target. Canberra has only discussed it ‘internally’ which could mean anything. They haven’t spoken to Pearce, nor have they presented an offer, mostly because Pearce is still employed and contracted to the Newcastle Knights for 2022. The public discussion for much of the year is that he would be moved on, and he’s been linked to Canterbury on a short term deal as well. But he’s still there, with a contract and a finals series to get through. Prick.
Pearce would be fine in the same way that so many of the other options that have been publicly mooted would be. He’d play right side primarily, and I can see him fitting in alongside Wighton well. He’s a happier runner and would fit well if made the third attacking option after Wighton and whoever the hooker is. He’s not the organiser that people think he is (why is it when people see a player with a bubble-butt they immediately think ‘organiser!’?), but he’d definitely more of a force for good than Canberra currently get in that regard. He’s a better tackler than popular conception and Canberra could potentially re-establish the right’s defensive resolve after a year of living dangerously. Of course, he’d spend much of his time injured, and Canberra would be paying full-value for someone that isn’t on the field enough to justify it. But if we had to line all the halfback options up best to worst, Pearce is definitely at the front of the line.
All of this is by the by. All of the options the Raiders have either publicly, or through rumour, considered have had similar flaws. Gareth Widdop might be made of paddle pop sticks. Luke Brooks and Ash Taylor have spent so long being lauded as ‘next’ that they forgot to become ‘now’. Pearce is probably closer to ‘was’ than ‘is’ and there’s the rub. There’s not really a good option. The good options (Adam Reynolds and Shaun Johnson) were long gone before Canberra came to market. In the end, whatever the market provides will cost full-board and bring with them all kinds of warts and weevils.
Should Canberra snare Pearce, or any of the other options, its unlikely they’ll be the difference between Canberra returning to the top four or not. There’s a whole host of internal improvements (or returns to form) that will play a bigger determinant in that. But getting almost any of them will be an improvement on what the Raiders are currently getting from seven, and allow them to work out whether Brad Schneider, or someone else, is next.
In all likelihood Pearce isn’t coming to Canberra. There had been suggestions he was keen to move back to Sydney for his last contract, and well, Canberra isn’t Sydney. I’d call it a potential Raider Raise (shouts to Jack Cronin) but we’re not really even in a bargaining situation. It’s just another name added to the list. It seems more likely to me that we’ll have to wait a while to see how the market shakes out. What Canberra ends up with will be determined more by decisions at other clubs than at Raiders HQ. It’s not ideal, but hey what about 2021 is.