Harry Rushton Departs


Harry Rushton is going home.

The Canberra Raiders provided a sad start to the weekend when they announced the young Englishman will be heading back to England due to personal reasons Friday afternoon.

It’s gutting news. Harry is a favourite of these pages. His ability to ball-play is such a useful skill in a middle, and his ability to mix that with a strong and improving running game made him a perfect modern 13. Able to test the line with his power, but also put someone else into a better position with his brains. That at just 20 he was already pushing his way into the Raiders top 17 was evidence of the talent. He was just touching the edges of his talent. It’s just a shame we won’t get to see it develop in Canberra anymore.

No one should question the decision to go. After travelling half way around the world at barely 18, and then being separated from his family for so long by the tyranny of coronavirus, it’s understandable that he wants to go home. I don’t know anymore than you about why he wants to be in England, but I hope it gives him the security and happiness he deserves. He owes Canberra nothing.

It does bring to the fore a question that is starting to burn for the Milk: just how are they going to fill out the rest of their pack next year. They’ll be losing two from the starting 17 in Adam Elliott and Ryan Sutton, along with one of the most ready to replace them. They don’t have an obvious starting 13 next year (some mixture of Elliott Whitehead and Trey Mooney seems most likely). It’s quite a pickle. This year has been about re-establishing the lock position as one for a big man who can also handle the ball a bit (as opposed to the half masquerading as a lock). That’s Harry’s modus operandi, and he would have been a perfect replacement for Adam Elliott. Apart from potentially Mooney, the rest of the available pack are straightforward props, – Canberra now has a obvious limitation that needs addressing.

There is talent coming through. Ata Mariota just made his debut. Trey Mooney is ready for more time in first grade. Peter Hola has been proving himself ready in Cup footy. All of these are ready to play first grade. But they’re ready to play in much the same way that Harry was ready this year. It’s a stretch to think they’re all ready to move into big first grade minutes, though they may be asked to (and may be capable. Youth doesn’t preclude it success, it’s just makes it less likely). It also makes the Milk all the more susceptible to the ageing of Big Papa, or injuries to Corey Horsburgh or Joe Tapine.

So it seems like the Raiders will have to go big game hunting for a middle forward or two, preferably one that can move a bit. It’s a real shame they missed out on Eli Katoa. It’s not immediately clear who realistic options are. Canberra has to hunt at the edge of rosters in order to sniff out potential before other teams recognise it, so it’s never an easy or certain process. But to be sure, a player of Isaiah Papali’i’s status isn’t coming to town. A player like Papali’i was when Parramatta snagged him a few years back might. That’s the challenge. But for now the Milk have nothing but a potential problem at the centre of everything they do (literally).

But these are just matters of speculation. There is a more important human matter here, and I hope Harry is ok, and heading home is what he needs. I’d love for him to be at Canberra, but I can’t think of a single Milk fan that would choose their happiness over his. Go well young man. We’ll miss you. And if you ever want to come back, you’ll be welcome. You’re a Raider for life.

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