Worth the Risk?

Word emerged late Sunday evening that the Canberra Raiders were surprise contenders for cast-aside second-rower Adam Elliott, per Paul Crawley from the Daily Telegraph.

Before we get carried away it’s worth noting the reporting so far has indicated that no conversations have been had and no offers have been made. Crawley has a ongoing relationship with Coach Stuart so I don’t doubt his characterisations of Canberra’s ‘interest’ to be earnest, just those the strength of those statements aren’t particularly strong. For example:

It can be revealed that the Raiders are also debating whether to throw Elliott a lifeline after he agreed to a mutual parting of ways at the Bulldogs following a string of off-field incidents.

per Paul Crawley


But Elliott does have a long standing friendship with Raiders recruitment chief Peter Mulholland who initially signed him at the Bulldogs years ago. Ricky Stuart also thinks Elliott is at least worth of having a conversation with.

Per Paul Crawley

So all that has happened so far is that the Milk have acknowledged that he’s a handy footy player and that they should have a conversation with him. Both Peter Mulholland and Stuart have been identified for comment in the piece, which suggests some level of interest, but that’s about it. Interest yes. Maybe a conversation. Is he heading down the highway? Not yet.

In a vacuum it makes sense. Elliott is only 26, is mobile and strong enough to play multiple positions in the forward pack. He can provide a bit of mobility and capable passing in the middle of the field, and is a strong defender at all positions. His ball play, and ability to engage the line, is a weapon at lock and would add important variety to the Raiders’ attack (though he was much more effective at this in 2020 than he was in 2021). He could be an excellent player coming off the bench, providing flexibility to play fast through the middle or cover an edge, similar to that offered by Corey Harawira-Naera. As a player in a desperate search of a club he’d be on a team friendly deal, meaning he’d be right in Canberra’s wheelhouse of picking up another club’s trash and potentially turning it into treasure.

When you look beyond the immediate benefits though the risk of the addition muddies the waters. Elliott has had a series of off-field incidents. He’s admitted to problems with alcohol, has been referred to the integrity unit for a run in with former player Michael Lichaa and Lichaa’s fiance. He’s been photographed being a drunk footballer (i.e. nude) at a Mad Monday celebration. And recently, with his career in the balance and the Dogs needing a reason to rip up his reported 400k a year contract up he found a way to mess up.

None of these indiscretions were sack-worthy on their own, but as a group they provide a pattern of behaviour. Given the Green Machine have found themselves in way too many off-field incidents over the last 18 months (Curtis Scott, Tom Starling, Corey Horsburgh, Corey Harawira-Naera and Curtis Scott again), and plenty of squad disharmony in 2021, adding a behaviour risk feels imprudent. When you note that the Green Machine is in a transition period for it’s club leadership it becomes more concerning. Josh Hodgson may not be at the club next year, Jarrod Croker may not be in the starting 17. Veterans like Ryan James, Sia Soliola and Dunamis Lui have also moved on. Crawley argues that the Raiders culture can get Elliott headed in the right direction, but I think the certainty around that is misplaced right now.

It’s also a potential problem for the Raiders roster if they add another middle forward to the pile. Canberra already have mobile forwards that can cover edge and back row (see Hudson Young, Corey Harawira-Naera, Harry Rushton and arguably Joe Tapine). He’d be a cheap addition, but the difference between depth and duplication is small. In addition, as we’ve noted before, if Hodgson is going to play minutes at 13 (still an IF in my mind), there’s fewer rotation minutes available to bench middles. This means that Don Furner’s concern that Ryan Sutton, Corey Horsburgh and Harawira-Naera might be enticed north to the new Brisbane team might be realised as they search for a more meaningful role. You’d want to be sure of a player if you’re going to risk that kind of talent walking out the door. Further putting another obstacle in front of already identified talent – like Harry Rushton and Trey Mooney – just feels like not trusting your own talent identification systems.

It’s hard not to be enticed by the talent and the price it would come at. Elliott is a good footy player – I don’t think anyone has ever doubted that. It’s whether he’s a good fit in the squad, both on and off the field. It’s hardly a sure thing should the Raiders choose to pursue it. They’ll need to be sure he’s worth the risk.

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