Small Steps


Joe Tapine’s performance this year, and his recent new deal has put in him in the spotlight. Gone is the 2IC to Josh Papalii’s big dog. The money and risk invested in him makes his actions, and performance, a key indicator for the Milk going forward. Is he ready for this responsibility? If his post-signature press conference is anything to go by Tapine knows the responsibility he has, and is ready to embrace it.

This post-signature press conference was enough to make the most ill-tempered and curmudgeonly Raiders’ fan smile. Apart from professing a love for Canberra (“me and my wife want to raise a family and Canberra is a lovely spot to do that”), committing to being a Raider for life (“I can’t see myself after this contract going anywhere else”), and talking generally about his affection for the players and staff of god’s football team (“the strong bonds I’ve created here with the players and the staff…”), Tapine gave a few hints to assuage concerns and maybe even raise expectations.

The major concern of Tapine’s deal, of course was one of length (no not like that you pervert). Tapine is signed on until the end of 2027, which means he has five years left on big money. By that time he’ll be way past the invisible line of 30 when prop-forwards performance starts to tail off. Given that he’s only really had somewhere between three and four consistent seasons (depending on how you want to argue) I can’t hate people that worry about this. We’ve addressed the reasons it doesn’t worry us, but Tapine also did so.

It’s all about being consistent, and backing it up next year, and the year after that and the year after that…I’m looking forward to the challenge.



I’ve changed dramatically as a person and a player since I moved down here


When Tapine joined the Raiders – and for a few years after – the knock on him was always effort and fitness. Could he keep making the necessary efforts when he was tired? And could he make the necessary changes to his lifestyle to make sure he didn’t get tired so easily? In 2022 he answered those questions, and played minutes well beyond what he’d managed previously, and without a drop off in efficiency or effectiveness. The question has loomed large in signing this deal about whether these changes were for the short term or permanent. At the very least what Tapine has told us is that he’s aware of what needs to be done.

An associated but separate concern was Tapine’s influence within the locker room. Tapine was obviously well-respected before this year, but after his season he, along with Josh Papalii, will hold a lot of sway. Whether he likes it or not, he’s a leader now, and his attitude will be important in guiding the youth movement coming to Canberra’s forward pack.

The good thing is Tapine not only recognises that he’s a leader but is embracing it. As he told the media scrum

That’s what I want to be, I want to be a leader, and bringing the team players here that want to play [here]



I’ve always wanted to be a leader, especially here. There’s still senior players ahead of me [but] I’ll just push my way to get to the top:


Look I’m not saying he’s already walking the walk. He’s proven this season he’s worth the money, but the effort expelled to make this year so amazing was substantial and it would be natural for the volume to get turned down from 11 so to speak. But hearing him say all the right things in his press conference – right down to laughing when a journalist asked him if he would have left if Sticky hadn’t been re-signed – is heartwarming given the financial and organisational risk that has been borne through the club’s investment in him.

Of course talk is talk and the proof will be on the field next year. But at the very least Tapine is under no misgivings. While the contract is signed, the job is not done. The work starts now.

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