Sutton’s End

BY DAN

Ryan Sutton has always felt like the most unlucky Canberra Raider, so it’s unfortunately fitting his time in green ends with a freak injury.

David Polkinghorne of The Canberra Times, has reported that Ryan Sutton has played his final game in 2022, confirmed by Alex Mitchell from AAP. An injury to a finger tendon requires surgery, and it will put Sutton out for the rest of the season.

Such an injury feels incredibly unlucky, but it wouldn’t be the first time Sutton felt the wrath of fate. He famously missed the 2019 finals run after a late season calf injury. At the time he’d done everything to earn a squad spot for that period. Instead he watched on as everyone else got to play on the biggest stage.

Through 2020 and 2021 Sutton went from a ‘nice to have’ bench unit to a critical part of the forward pack. His ability to play big minutes at the same output, and his impressive passing skills, made him the perfect V’Landysball forward. He could keep making tackles when most middles were keeled over. He could add width to the attack with easy connecting passes through the middle. He wasn’t perfect, and at times it looked like coach Stuart trusted his motor a little too much, but he was a useful part of the Raiders engine room.

It made it all the more surprising when it was announced that he’d signed with the Bulldogs for 2023. We’d spoken about his lukewarm reaction to questioning about his future, and some public discussions had hinted at his desire to move to Sydney with his partner. I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised. Coach Stuart certainly was.

With the Milk’s depth chart at the time as long as Adam Elliott’s arm, it was understandable to see him seek a different path. And at the time it made sense for the Milk not to pay “overs” to keep him. They had a host of middles, and even players that arguably would develop into better versions of Ryan. But combined with the departures of Elliott and Harry Rushton, it puts Canberra in a bit of a position. Now Emre Guler is certain starter in the 17, and Ata Mariota and Trey Mooney will need to make a leap when they’ve only just been given the opportunity to “walk” in first grade. With Rushton gone, Josh Hodgson on his way out, and the James Connor pursuit seemingly over, it also marks the end of the English experiment. I doubt Elliott Whitehead will ever leave Canberra, but his role is likely to reduce over the coming years.

Despite this we wish Ryan nothing but the best. There’s good things in his future, both in the NRL but also international football. He’s joining an “up-and-coming” squad in the Dogs, who have now paired a star (Matt Burton) with a emerging talent at coach, and a roster than might be able to compete for a finals position next year. Alongside Sutton, Viliame Kikau and Reed Mahoney present a formidable, and better, pack than Canterbury currently have. Sutton should also play a part for England in the upcoming Rugby League World Cup if they are not idiots. I guess there are no guarantees.

Here’s hoping this works out for Sutton. He’s been a quality Raider, if only for a short time. He deserves a chance, and maybe a bit of luck, to pursue his best life, on and off the footy field.

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