The Canberra Raiders finally announced today that Nic Cotric would return home. To the nation’s capital. To the Green Machine. To mend the broken hearts of Raiders’ fans everywhere.
It’s a three year deal – which means an additional year on his current deal (someone’s getting more commission Ultra Management. Time to update your website). I’ve not seen much on the magnitude, but given that the Bulldogs are chipping in for some (some corners have suggested as much as 150k), you’d suggest that means that the Raiders are paying Nick the same or less than they offered him before he walked at the end of the 2020 season. That’s a good deal for the Milk. It’s rare that you can get your hands on an elite winger coming into their prime at, or below, the market rate. (It’s even rarer when your based in Canberra and have a vaguely Norse themed team. Skoll!)
Nic brings so much that Canberra were missing in 2021. His hard-running on exit sets will be appreciated. All of sudden Jordan Rapana won’t be playing a lone-hand in this regard. With Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Nic in tow, now they have a back three to rival any other’s in terms of yardage work. The forwards, hopefully better prepared for this season, will get additional rest and will be even better placed to attack. Huzzah. In addition Cotric breaks tackles, which is something no one (bar Jordy) did last year, and in a league that values one-on-one attacking over everything else, this is an ability that needs to be plentiful to be a successful team. The Raiders have just added another weapon to that arsenal. With a bit of Mick Crawley based ingenuity, some structured plays that get Cotric in a bit of space with a single defender could be a real winner. Remember those massive inside lines he and Rapa used to run once upon a time, burning from the wing against the grain of the defence? Now they’ll be doing it against tired defence, with more space, and hopefully a bit more structured intent. He’s not a whip-smart decision maker in defence, but he’ll be fine standing on the wing, and he can handle a high ball as well as anyone that has played winger for the Milk since he left. There’s a certainty to his work that will be a relief in 2022.
Sidebar: Sorry i’ve been AWOL for a bit. I got proper sick (pneumonia) and it’s made doing things a bit harder than I would have liked. Huzzah for modern medicine.
Ps I blame any typos on the codeine.
It’s not a riskless plan – nothing is. As we said before, it removes the most obvious pathway to first grade for Xavier Savage. There are other options of course – and he may well put pressure on an ageing Jordan Rapana, or Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, or even at the centre positions. I’m sure the Raiders have talked to Savage about what his role will be with the team over 2022, because he’ll be able to negotiate a deal for himself for 2024 on 1 November 2022, so he’ll need to be clear how far from first grade he is at the end of it. I can’t imagine he’s far now, but with The Dolphins no doubt sneaking around with offers of playing time and the romantic appeal of living in the “The”, there’s a risk there that Canberra need to be aware of, and managing. I’m sure they are.
As we said Nic is entering his prime, but like the prodigal son, he returns chastened and willing to make the most of the gifts god gave him. No more dreams of playing centre – which always seemed such an ill-fit for a guy whose best attributes are his athleticism and drive rather than passing and decision making. No more desires on fullback money. Just a boy returned a man and ready to make the best of his situation. The club and he are aligned. You love to see it.
And for us, it’s a just valuation of Canberra. In rugby league and life, people often are given the gift of Canberra and take it for granted. Sometimes it’s only when you leave that you realise just what a perfect little place it is, the opportunities it can offer, and the world you can create. Nic went away. Maybe it’s football that brought him back, maybe it was the promise of home. I hope he finds what’s best for him in Canberra. I hope the Canberra Raiders find the best for him to.