Trust and the Next Man Up


If there’s a takeaway from the Canberra Raiders’ front-office recruitment, it’s that they trust the foundations they have built.

As reported by the Canberra Times, long time analyst, recruitment right-hand man and short-term NSW Cup coach Joel Carbon is now head of recruitment. Former Raiders Jersey-Flegg coach Justin Giteau has moved up NSW Cup. While an overture remains out there for Michael Maguire, it seems all other positions are being solved through internal promotion.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. As anyone who’s ever had a job will tell you, quite often the best person for a job is the person that is already doing it, or knows the environment and culture of an organisation the best. It maintains a healthy coherence in approach and messaging, and maintains corporate knowledge within organisations. It can also bring stability. After the upheaval of losing both Brett White and Andrew McFadden, Sticky was obviously keen to bring a sense of familiarity and normalcy to the club.

Carbone for one takes an interesting path to his position. He started as a data analyst with the club in 2016, before becoming Peter Mulholland’s right-hand man. There wasn’t a better person for him to learn his craft from. He was thrust into a coaching role last year – a job we had always suspected he was in more because of the cost impact of coronavirus rather than his desire to be in the role. Even in moving into that role, Carbon himself mentioned the level of confidence that Coach Stuart had showed in him.

It’s been really easy. Stick’s obviously given me a bit of leeway, stayed back and let me do my own thing… and given me a lot trust”

Carbone to Behind the Limelight

He didn’t have a stunning record but then that speaks as much to how the Raiders use NSW Cup as it does to his coaching ability. The Milk are up front about they see their reserve grade squad as being as much about preparing players for the top line as it is winning games, which given the relative benefits of success and their limited resources, is probably a good approach.

Carbone feels more at home in recruitment than coaching for me. He can lean on his background in data analysis and the skills and learnings he’s taken from Peter Mulholland over the years. As we’ve noted above, and in the past, Mulholland was an excellent football brain and one of the most respected recruitment men around. If Carbone can carry just an ounce of his legacy forward it could be a win for the Milk. Over the past few months I’ve potentially erroneously bring giving Don Furner sole credit for moves like Pasami Saulo or retain Joe Tapine. It’s possible and maybe even likely that Carbone has played a role in these moves that for now we are treating as net positives. He also brings the benefit of a data informed approach to the game. Coach Stuart has always had an old school vibe about his work, and having someone who’s willing to look closer at the factual evidence surround what the Milk do could be a complement to Sticky’s truisms.

Giteau for his part walks into the job vacated by Carbone. His history is rugby league (not in the least noting he’s the son of former Raiders captain Ron Giteau), and he’s coached in various forms around Canberra for quite some time, including In Tuggeranong in the CRRL, the Monaro Colts u/23 rep team, as well as the assistant for NSW cup before he was Jersey Flegg coach. Giteau has noted before he shares similar attacking philosophies with first grade attacking coach Mick Crawley, which makes it easier to build a cohesive playing style across the top 30.

That’s unquestionably a good thing, but it does put the Milk at risk again of being too homogenous in their footy thoughts. It’s a trade off in a sense; you can’t have stability and cohesion as well as dynamism and new ideas. But one wonders if there’s someone in the room to give Sticky an alternative pathway to the same ends. Carbone’s more stats-based approach can only have so much impact from the recruitment office. Indeed this puts a lot of pressure on a potential signing like Michael Maguire to be the alternative voice to Sticky. Maguire has the status, I’m just not sure if he’s got the fresh ideas.

Furthermore, according to the Canberra Times the Raiders think they’ll work that out this week. That suggests that either the Raiders are pretty sure Madge will say yes, or have someone lined up if he says no. I’m not sure who that is, but the only person that is ‘waiting’ for Madge to say no is another person looking to take a step up. So it’s unlikely there’s a big name coming. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and a voice from a lower level or, at least, a less experienced one may be the fresh thinking the Milk need. But again, innovation is a lot of pressure to put less experienced voice.

Regardless, the big risk in this approach that we identified when the overture went out to Maguire remains. Canberra still may not have the step change in thinking necessary to keep pace with the best of the competition. Only time will tell if that risk is realised.

All that remains is to find that other assistant – either Maguire or otherwise – and to get to work.

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