The Canberra Raiders need to keep on winning.
Last week was a great second half. The first wasn’t ideal, but would have been less bad if the Raiders hadn’t been an accessory to the fact. Victory kept them at the same pace as the rest of the peloton of the competition, but there’s no time to fall off the pace. There’s a Panthers game coming up. Canberra need all the points they can get.
The Titans have lost some insane number of games in a row, which is interesting because during every game you’ll find about twenty minutes where you’re wondering “why is this team bad? They are playing awesome”. They put the best part of 40 together against the Raiders back in round 3, which feels so long ago that I’m not sure it’s worth taking any notice of it (the Raiders winning try came when Brad Schnedier grubbered for Charnze Nicoll-Kloksatad).
Tino, both Fifitas. Sexton and Brimson. Jayden Campbell. There’s plenty of talent on this team, which is perhaps why they always have passages of brilliance. When you’re that good at footy, you can’t help but occasionally put it together. Most teams can overcome 40 minutes of genius though, because they can offer 80 minutes of competence. And well that’s the thing. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but 80 minutes of competence is so foreign to the Raiders it may as well be the late movie on SBS (hi, that’s a reference from the 1990s, it was a different time).
So forget a good half. Canberra need a good game, and the two points that come with it.
The same 17, which is great except it makes me wonder about two things.
Firstly, is Corey Horsburgh ok? Is this a Justice for Barb situation? Can someone confirm that Corey is healthy or not? If he’s fit he should be playing – he’s been the Raiders second best middle all season, and he’s now nowhere to be seen. He’s not anywhere on the list either, which definitely suggests health, only we’ve not heard from the club with any specificities. I’m *this* close to breaking my ‘don’t DM the players’ rule.
Secondly, you’ll all note that Elliott Whitehead is starting again. Earlier in the week we wrote a pitch that the Raiders attack has shown potential improvements over the last two weeks. We also noted that it might mean more time for Corey Harawira-Naera. It’s a small sample size, so this week should provide some more insight into a) whether our hypothesis is accurate and b) what’s going to be done about it. Most will be frustrated with Stuart’s conservative approach, but given how the side fell apart in 2021 over his failure to manage key relationships, I’m happy that he’s being cautious.
What we’ll be watching
But given that David Fifita can break a line like it’s made of paper, the concerns we outlined about Elliott Whitehead’s defence will be tested. The Titans have scored most of their points this season down that side, and the Raiders right has been where teams have searched for points. It’s not an ideal matchup. Jamal Fogarty’s defence has been examined, but has improved every week. Between the two of them, and Matt Timoko, they’ll need to keep a close eye on the big man. Luckily for the Milk, the Titans tend to just give Fifita the ball and hope for the best. That’s much more predictable, and therefore easier to manage.
I’m also curious to see if Jack and Jamal’s almost perfect last ten minutes is just another beautiful moment for the Milk, or proof that the Milk are capable of intelligent play. The Raiders earned three repeat sets in the last ten minutes, barely let their opposition touch the ball, and generally iced the game. They kicked wonderfully throughout the entire second half. It would take a naïve fool to think it’s fait accompli to happen again, but hey, a man can dream right?
The Raiders have beaten the Titans in recent seasons by targeting them right up the guts. Tom Starling had one of his best games of the season last week. Can he keep following the momentum build by Tapine and Papalii? I’d like to see it.
How the Raiders can win
Firstly don’t let the opposition dominate the middle. They’re a big pack, and they can make defence difficult (4th in the league in tackle breaks). But if they’re not wearing you down, then there’s not a lot after that. But if you can’t corral the middle, and they can get space for Fifita to target a backpeddling edge, it could be a very long day. So avoid that hey.
But most of all, be consistent and effective for 80 minutes. A man can dream.
Raiders by 3.
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