A word, and a feeling that Raider’s fans have come to know and embrace over the last couple of decades and something the the world at large has come to know over the last couple of years.
(In VERY simple terms) The idea that seemingly random events have some sort of connection and relation to one another. Chaos can be a bit of a comfort, a sense of unexpectedness, a chance at hope and plucking a win from nothing. We embrace it in Canberra, without chaos do we have the Leipana magic? Jack’s particular kicking game? Do we win the “Once Upon A Time In Melbourne” game or the fireworks final?
But with chaos you also get hit with the bitter end of the stick, what was once a chance to beat them all, falls apart 2 years later and leaves us all to wonder just “how did a bunch of random and chaotic events during 2021 manage to sink the longship?” Was it all too much and went down under it’s own weight? Did someone create a leak and it took on water unnoticed? Or did one unfortunate, seemingly random event start a course of almost media fuelled mutiny?
The popular contender, was the very public feud between George Williams and Fox Sports… or George Williams management and Raiders’ management… or some horrible mix of both, which felt like a rerun, of a horrible episode we thought we had memory holed from 2020. But, alas, without chaos we’d all be pretty bored.
While it was a distraction in 2020, the team still found a way to play around the problems and the re-locations to come home 5th and be one win away from a repeat Grand Final appearance. So while it was undesirable to have Round 2 of Fox Sports vs. Raiders’ English Import, there should have been no reason why a professional team couldn’t weather the storm.
The difference this time, the team was under pressure, the Raiders looked lost in attack, they looked lost in how to hold leads. The Raiders’ two main organisers came started to go under the microscope, trapped thousands of kilometres away from family and under attack from the media for poor performances, this is where the cracks burst, this is the moment the ship was in obvious distress. But, I don’t believe this is where it started.
Chaos is not one moment, much like, if anyone has watched enough Air Crash Investigations, it’s never usually one moment that creates a crash, but a string of small events that slowly eliminate each safety protocal.
The Raiders’ first sign of trouble is Round 3, at home, against the Warriors, which can be summed up in one photo.
After a series of injuries leave the Raiders with a one man rotation, the pressure was on to build a lead before V’landoball caught up with them. And they did it, they did us proud, we dug deep for 25 points at half time and even answered a try after the break. But the inevitable happened, everyone knew it was coming, with 15 able bodies (even that number may have been questionable when you consider Curtis Scott’s broken ribs) and some interesting interpretations of rules, the Warriors came home with a wet sail and while a disappointing end, we were still proud. Next week against the Titans we were obviously drained, carrying injuries and just trying to survive a weak opponent while looking forward to the Panthers game in 6 days time.
And this game in Penrith is where I believe the season defining moment happens. The Raiders were in this game up to their ears in the opening minutes, somewhat scrappy but holding their own and getting the opening points. But, then a high shot stuns Charnze, not good. He goes for a HIA, fair enough it was a rough shot. He fails the HIA, not optimal but we have talent, Rapa has done it before.
The problem with having a Rapana at fullback is the same problem with having a Wighton at fullback. They ARE chaos, what makes them such attacking weapons is also the thing that has Raiders’ fans yelling “WWWHHHYYY?” at the TV. Watching Rapa track a high ball leaves you with the feeling that at some point “I bet I could catch this with my feet” ran through his head. He’s an attack first player with a flair for the dramatic, Jack is the same, don’t get me wrong, both have made some awesome defensive reads and I think there is still a Jake Granville shaped hollow in the Bruce turf. But neither are organisers.
It is of my opinion that when 2019 rolled around and Jack made the move to the halves and Charnze earned the fullback role that his defensive organisation from the back was the catalyst for one of best defensive years the Raiders had seen. Gone was the Faiders tag, in came the Great Green Wall, hell it even felt like Toots stopped leaking points, #AllTheWayWithCNK and we did.
And so against the Panthers, as the game wore on, the defensive structure fell apart, the tiredness from 2 weeks earlier caught up with us again and the Raiders couldn’t hold one of the comp’s most potent attacks. Then the news came, Charnze has a neck injury, extended time out. Not optimal with the run of team we had to face.
We lose to the Eels bad.
Get out classed by the Cowboys.
Let the Rabbits in for 30+.
Can’t hold the Knights in Wagga.
Manage to make the Bulldogs game a contest.
And then lose the next 2 games 78-26 against the Storm and Chooks.
By this point in time, questions are being asked of our English organisers. Hodgson is stripped of his captaincy, the Williams war is in full swing and Curtis Scott ends up in the news for the wrong reasons again.
Now, I’m not claiming that Charnze is some mystical defensive guru (although these pages have essentially done that), but as the last few games showed us, there was an air of that Great Green Wall making a return. He talks from the back, he has a great eye for what is unfolding in front of him and seems to get bodies in the right areas. The Raiders tried a lot of different bodies at fullback to fill the hole, from exciting young talent to veteran heads, but all of them made it feel like we were trying to blow teams off the park with points like it was 2016, but with a mix of V’landoball, big and ageing bodies up front and 6, 7 and 9 combo that looked lost while trying to organise attack and defense. It was all too much and overload led to collapse.
Charnze is the control in a team of chaos, he’s the warm fuzzy feeling that you don’t have to worry about and that it will all look after itself, but for him to do it on his own may be a bit much to ask for going forward, he needs a level head to aide him in the halves, someone who can steer the attack without trying to force the point, someone who can drop bombs two meters out, work repeat sets and keep a level head when the game is on the line. Who can take that role? That’s a question for Dan to answer.
For me, I’ll busy myself with questions like “If Charnze didn’t injure himself, would George have ended up staying?” and all the other things that I should probably leave to Doctor Ian Malcolm.
But, I do see the Great Green Wall making a resurgence next year. See you then Raiders fans.