Peachey in Green?

BY DAN

The Canberra Raiders are shooting their shot all over the league in search of someone, anyone, to fill the gaps that exist in their squad for 2022. The latest in that list is Tyrone Peachey, as reported by the always excellent David Polkinghorne at the Canberra Times. I doubt Peachey will actually end up in Green, but he’s an intriguing prospect.

Peachey makes a lot of sense in a range of ways. The most obvious one is performing the same role at lock for Canberra that he did for the Titans this year. Peachey brought pace and creativity to the middle third, giving the Titans an extra ball player to supplement the lack of threat their rotation of hookers provided around the ruck. In a world where the Vlandoball of the first three-quarters of 2021 reigns supreme, this pace and creativity is critical to take advantage of exhausted middles. He’d also be a useful utility, able to come on and cover multiple positions with a relative degree of competence.

Canberra have missed someone who can create points from unstructured play and Peachey certainly is that. He’s played pretty much everywhere in his career, and he’d bring the same creativity to a range of positions across the park as needed. The utility value is obvious, and at a pinch he can even fill in on the right hand edge as a starting half (though I note Coach Stuart explicitly told the Canberra Times that wouldn’t be his role). His defence is good enough to play major minutes at lock off the bench, or to fill in at other points.

He’d be a good fit with the squad the Raiders have clearly got in mind going forward. He’d release pressure on Tom Starling to do things other than what he’s good at. He’d give an important link forward through the middle third, allowing both halves to play with width if they so choose, without forcing the young rake into throwing long passes that aren’t his speciality (yet). He’d provide good cover across the park – the first genuine 14 the Raiders have had since…Shaun Berrigan? Lincoln Withers? Jason Croker? He’d also reduce the reliance on the Raiders on a host of middles to succeed. Suddenly the Milk would only need one of two of Guler, Hosrbugh, Lui, Soliola, James et al to step up, rather than a host of them.

There are risks of course. Playing major minutes at 13 would put pressure on the remaining middles to dominate. Papalii, Tapine and Sutton did that in periods this season, but it would be a tough assignment to do it every week in Vlandoball. It would also reduce opportunities for other forwards to play meaningful minutes in a more mobile position, meaning young players like Harry Ruston and Trey Mooney will have pathways to the top a little more difficult to find. I guess the hope is that if they’re good enough they’ll knock the door down.

There’s also a degree of duplication. Peachey presents yet another option to Canberra of a possibility who’s more runner than organiser, more unstructured sometimes genius than dependable structured cog. A spine of him, Nicoll-Klokstad, Starling, Wighton and [who knows] puts a lot of pressure on [who knows] to actually direct the Milk down the park. In addition, his addition of creativity in the middle third is exactly the same role that Josh Hodgson is currently performing for a good chunk of the game. Peachey is more athletic, Hodgson are more dependable and better ballplayer. Indeed, with Hodgson at 9, Peachey is probably redundant and one wonders if you wouldn’t just play a younger, more mobile forward (like Rushton or Mooney – or Seb Kris) at 13 if you were looking for more agility in the middle. This probably speaks as much to the keenness with which Sticky is pushing Hodgson out the door as any idea of playing them together.

Cost therefore becomes a relevant concern. I presume this would be short term and cheap (which then speaks to the likelihood of Peachey choosing Canberra over more money elsewhere (maybe England?)). So the risk would be low, but if Hodgson is still on the books, then you’re essentially paying upwards of a million dollars for two people to do half a job.

There’s also a risk in assuming the trajectory of small ball is the way of the future. The back end of 2021 saw referees put away the set restart rule, and suddenly teams that have thrived in that environment have looked more vulnerable than at other points this season. The game slowed down, and the traditional three-big middle became more normal, and the need to be creative around 9 reared its head. It’s early days, and god knows what rule changes the chief cowboy will have this offseason (we are all still waiting for multiball rugby league). It will be a balancing act for the club to manage, and Peachey wouldn’t stop them from playing ‘big’ if the game went back to normality, but other decisions that would likely follow might.

The other burning issue with this is the fact that while Peachey is good at a lot of things, he’s not really great at anything. To borrow from the (not always wrong) Matt from the Green Machine Podcast, he’s the quintessential jack of all trades. There’s a reason he’s never really found a spot at the three clubs he’s been to before the Raiders. And the fact that a side as obviously flawed and needing players like him like the Titans have punted on him should make suitors wary. After he’s 30 now, and is what he is.

Ultimately though, regardless of his charms i’m not getting carried away and pencilling him in for the 2022 season. There’s no indication he wants to come to Canberra, only the threat it may be his only option in the NRL. Only time will tell if we see Peachey in green next year.

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