Raiders Sign Levi

BY DAN

Just moments after we suggested that the Milk would be waiting a little longer to start filling out their remaining five places for their roster, they’ve jumped right in to prove us wrong. Former Knights, Manly, Broncos and current Super League hooker Danny Levi will be joining the club on a two year deal, as reported first by The Daily Telegraph.

For Canberra I can see the logic. Levi is a high-floor, low-ceiling back up for the less experienced Zac Woolford and the burdened with expectation Tom Starling. In a perfect world he’ll play less than 7 or 8 first grade games across the life of this deal. He’s probably come fairly cheap, given he’s leaving the Super League. It’s not sexy, but it’s probably sensible – pending some questions we have about Adrian Trevilyan below.

As a player Levi is best as a depth option. He’s not a top creator or even a good passer but he’s not awful at either. He’s a pretty good runner from nine (I’ve always sort of seen him like a less good Tom Starling). If he’s the third hooker on the roster and he comes cheap then it’s not a bad outcome. Canberra will get better ruck manipulation and passing from Woolford. They’ll get better running from Starling. But Levi does a good enough job at both to ride the tide for a few games if injury happens. And it’s worth noting that he’ll fit in fine alongside either established player if the Raiders continue to play two hookers.

It’s too early to judge but we do wonder why this has been the focus of the Milk’s recruitment. Of course some negotiations are quicker than others – Levi likely jumped at the idea of a full time contract with anyone in the NRL. But given the importance of filling roles like lock, as well as edge forward depth, I hope that’s what has driven this signature. Because if backup backup hooker was the first priority of recruitment then I have more pointed questions. Indeed when paired with the signing of Pasami Saulo it suggests Canberra are building bottom-up. That’s not to say there’s not more to come – as we noted here there’s a range of reasons that recruitment has been in stasis so far this off-season. But we’d be keen for a clearer idea of how issues higher up the depth chart are going to be addressed.

Another depressing aspect of this is what it means for Adrian Trevilyan. Potentially off-contract (I know, you’d think such a question would be clear but through the opacity of rugby league contract arrangements it simply isn’t), and with rumours surrounding his health, the signing of Levi brings into question Trevliyan’s place in the top 30, and the wider squad. Is he being moved on by the club? Or is the expectation that he’ll spend so much of 2023 rehabilitating his body that the Milk will need another hooker on the roster? That would presumably mean that Trevilyan may remain on a developmental deal. Only time will tell I guess, but one would hope the role makes Levi a bridge that allows Adrian to get healthy, and the even younger Stanley Iongi time to develop. As we’ve stated before, our view is that Trevilyan is the most talented rake on the Raiders roster, and it would be a mistake to let another team reap the benefits of snaring him.

That’s something to watch. Regardless it’s clear that Levi has taken his role, and it reflects Canberra’s desire to take certainty rather than potential, given the relative inexperience in the starting rakes. It’s not a big move, but it’s a step that may be revealing when looking at other potential signatures on the horizon. Perhaps the Milk are of the view that the talent in the squad is sufficient – they just need to address the balance. It’s not exactly exciting, but it’s probably a safe decision.

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