Last year (and the year before), we celebrated the new year by getting some things off our chest. Some guesses, educated if you’re being generous, about what might happen in the coming season. We shot some half cooked ideas out of the old take cannon and hoped they landed. The point being not so much about being right, but more about pointing in the direction that things would travel. Obviously our predictions were pretty positive (like invoking Gladiator to suggest the Raiders would win it all), because back then life was still maybe not filled, but at least half-full with hope.
We went alright. About as good as the Milk did. Hudson Young, for example, did start at back row (tick!) but did not have five try assists (insert whammy noise). Red Horse wasn’t a breakout star, nor did he play origin (insert Corey pointing and crying photo). Jack Wighton was not better in 2021, but he did start a game of origin at six, as silly as that sounds in retrospect. Neither Bailey Simonsson nor Matt Timoko scored 10 tries, but the point was that they’d be playing plenty, and if it wasn’t for injury (Bailey) and coaching recalcitrance (Timoko) I may have been right (no I wouldn’t have). And I didn’t end up gushing over Ryan James’ rig as much as I thought I would. Go figure.
In the end we went roughly 10 for 21 on predictions. Most people would be happy with that, but clearly, it means we weren’t being bold enough. As we said this isn’t about being right. This is about
expressing our masculinity through idiotic risk-taking behaviour having a real crack Come on! Let’s get toxic. Wait. Let’s not. But let’s be a bit more bold.
So, without further adieu, here is 22 bold predictions about 2022.
1. Hudson Young breakout year
This is how we started last year, and if we’re being fair Hudson had some very good moments. He also had some bits were it all went a bit shit for a bit, mostly to do with a knee injury he suffered early (and maybe rushed back from? It’s hard to tell). He should be ensconsed as a starter from round 1, and from there I reckon he’s ready to put it together. A full-blown hard-running ball-playing menace.
2. Josh Hodgson won’t end the season on the Raiders.
Oooft. Wrong kind of bold.
There’s a carousel of changes ready to happen when it comes to hooker. Mahoney to Bulldogs, Koroisau to the Tigers, Hodgson to the Eels. Maybe Luke Brooks is the domino that makes it all happen (it would be the first time Brooks has made something happen yuk yuk yuk), maybe failed seasons and chaos in the middle of the year make it happen. I dunno. But I don’t think Hodgson, the second best hooker in Raiders’ history and the catalyst of Canberra’s relevance in the last five years, finishes the season at the club.
3. JB from the Green Machine Podcast will post a photo of Jamal Fogarty’s rig more often than I’ll write Josh Hodgson articles this year.
The over/under on both is 5.5 for the season. Speak to your favourite soul stealer to get it up as a prop.
Can’t blame him either.
4. We will finally get to feel the rush in first grade.
Harry Rushton came to the club at the end of 2020 a much ballyhooed recruit. He was only 18 then, and hadn’t played Super League, let alone NRL, but the reports were all that the Raiders had scored a talent.
He had some moments in reggies last season, but unfortunately COVID ruined the extended run of game time he needed to get ready for the top line. But I reckon he’ll get a shot next season and we’ll get to see the value we snared.
5. I will annoy people writing FEEL THE RUSH on twitter and in every damn article about Harry.
Sorry. I know it’s not original. But I used to listen to a song with that quote back in the day. Top tune. I’m really excited to see him. Feel the Rush! Looks dirtier than I mean it.
6. Harry won’t be the only rookie or emerging player to get top line time.
A contributing factor (but not the only one) to Harry and some others getting more burn in 2022 will be the prick that is COVID. Expanded rosters have already been mentioned, but as we’ve seen in the cricket, in the NBA and the NFL, the virus (and the current dominant variant) has meant teams are having to make sure their whole roster is ready. Harry will get a run, but so will Trey Mooney, Peter Hola, and Adrian Trevilyan to name a few.
7. At least one Canberra game will get postponed because too many players will have the Rona.
I don’t like this one, but there’s just been too many games move, or be suspended overseas, to not think the same thing will happen here. Maybe they can postpone the evil 6pm Friday games to a more manageable time.
8. Jarrod Croker will retire before origin.
Urgh gross. No I don’t like that.
8. Jarrod Croker’s knee will be fine and his shoulder will be fine and his pec will be fine and everything will be fine.
Ok? Ok?! Tell me it’s going to be ok.
9. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad is going to be a much better ball player
Here ya go. Something cleansing. From the dude that gets railed because he’s not Tommy T, we’ll see more action. All he needs is a bit of structure and a bit more time. Mick Crawley will give it to him. 8 try assists. You heard it here first.
10. X gonna give it to ya.
Xavier Savage may not start the season in the top line, but there’ll be no shortage of opportunity for him. He’ll finish the season with 7 first grade tries, and will play at least 1 game at fullback.
11. Though Charnze will remain the primary option
I didn’t realise this would be a bold prediction, but so many outlets have Charnze moving to the centres and Savage playing fullback. I gotta say I don’t see it. Savage is a talent, but his body is still developing. He’s barely out of SG Ball – it would be beyond remarkable for him to slot into the most important defensive position on the field. He’s put on weight – which hopefully means he won’t get physically overwhelmed (as he did in his first start that Jordan Rapana literally had to carry him around the park) but he’s hardly finished growing. Stay patient. Savage will find his permanent spot. It might be (probably be?) fullback. But he’s still a teenager. Give him time.
12. The Red Horse will finally put it together
You know all that stuff he showed in 2019. Hard carries. Mobility. Offloads. That without the mistakes and the red mist. He seems thinner and will be better prepared in 2022. After years of me predicting this we’ll finally get to see what the complete package looks like.
13. Then he’ll leave
I’m not even angry. Can hardly blame a dude for wanting to live closer to home. Nice weather. Coached by one of the best coaches in memory. It makes sense.
14. If the Raiders have problems it will be because of defence, not offence.
With so much discussion about what the Raiders did with the ball in 2021, the fact that the defence was a schermozzle seemed to fall down the issue totem-pole. If it’s not fixed, it could be the big talking point, as it was after every year before the last few.
15. Jamal Fogarty will be the floor general this team needs.
Oh captain my captain (not literally).
16. Nic Cotric, Harley Smith-Shields, Jack Wighton and Hudson Young will be the best rigged edge in the game. They’ll be awesome.
I don’t know who they’re competing with. But look. They’re all massive. They’re all made of marble. They’re going to be awesome.
17. Jack will find a way to not kick the ball out on the full.
He better. Jamal is a great short kick, but his long kicking game finds chests more than grass. Tom Starling isn’t the same option that Josh Hodgson is out of 9. Jack has to kick good.
Within the white lines Jack.
18. Elliott Whitehead will stay on the edge to start with.
Smelly will be Jamal Fogarty’s defensive consigliere, as he was for Sam Williams last year.
19. But at some point Jamal Fogarty won’t need defensive help, and he will need an attacking weapon
Which means Corey Harawira-Naera, and his tendency to just nope out on defence, on the right edge. Smelly will go to lock, which will mean he won’t be on the field all the time….
20. Which actually means Jamal Fogarty will be literally given the captaincy at some point.
I guess I just think he’s a leader? Is that crazy? That’s probably crazy.
21. Adam Elliott will be fine.
No drinking culture in Canberra. He’ll be sweet.
Corey and Corey and Tom you just stay away from him.
22. The Raiders will play a home final
I’m leaving myself a little wiggle room here. I guess I’m assuming they finish in the top 6 which feels hopeful. But what are new years and off-seasons for but hope? Let’s embrace it until reality takes it away.
Up the milk!