Things we saw in the draw


If there’s one thing I repeat each year when the Raiders’ draw comes out, it’s that strength of schedule, or the assessments thereof, are worth next to nothing for predicative value. As we said as far back as 2017 (man I need a new hobby):

I have no doubt that ease of draw can play a role in where the Raiders finish. But trying to ascertain the measure of that ease ex-ante is nothing but a way to pass the time until the season starts. 


Canberra, then, had what all assessments consider the easiest draw in the game. But with no Josh Hodgson, Aidan Sezer at hooker (I will never forgive you for that Sticky) and a soul-crushing ability to lose games they should win early in the season, it mattered less than Buzz Rothfield’s latest “scoop”.

The Raiders are again faced with this situation. They play just one 2022 top 8 side twice next year, and it’s the team they beat twice (and generally looked like a perfect foil for), the Cronulla Sharks. Pop the champagne! High five your loved ones! Book the celebration parade and make sure it stops at the Dickson Noodle House for a combo laksa with extra tofu!

Alas, not so fast. I’m not going to re-prosecute the case, but safe to say the strength of schedule is only worth considering in hindsight (or in the case of the Sharks 2022 draw, as it was happening). You can point to patches of perennially good teams, or areas with short turnarounds, but overall, there’s just too much variation between years to know. The Raiders even had a version of this in 2022. They played Souths and Roosters before both got their shit together. They got Manly after they fell apart. They got Melbourne in a rare post-origin swoon (but made that ‘real’ by beating them in a wonderful final).

So before you book your grand final tickets for 2023, just take a deep breath, admire your favourite photo of Gary Belcher, and go to your happy place for a bit. Fantasies are nice, but reality will take over next year.

What else did we notice about the draw?

It’s massive

The other thing about the draw is that it’s massive. There’s 27 rounds with three byes each to accommodate the fact that Peter V’Landys had the ambition of a turtle there’s an odd number of teams. You still *only* play 24 games, but the season is long, and getting longer at every step. It goes from the first weekend of March to the first weekend of October. It only manages it that quick because it squeezes in Origin mid-week, doubling down the pressure on teams that provide lots of representative players, and just sounding weirdly like a massive amount of weeks (no I don’t know why 27 sounds like heaps more than 26 but it does).

Bye Bye Bye *does N’Sync dance*

Of course, an uneven number of teams means an uneven number of byes, and byes in weird places. The key is avoiding them early in the season when bodies are relatively energised and not requiring rest. The Raiders manage to get to round 8 before a break, which is fantastic. Their second bye is round 16, and the bye in round 20 will provide a helpful break before the final stretch.

TV games

For the third year in a row (and it should be four if Channel 9 and V’Landys hadn’t removed the Milk from the 2020 post-pandemic break TV schedule) the Raiders have at least seven games on the FTA schedule. It’s such a strange place for the Milk to be. There was a time where their games on Channel 9 were as rare as good commentary. People from outside Canberra would have to head to their local pub to find the good guys in real time. Now they will play near a third of their games on terrestrial television. And it’s not unusual. What a world. The local forklift providers will be stoked.

Magic round

Much was made this week when it was revealed that the Knights will miss out on magic round. Of course, it ultimately doesn’t matter, outside of the sadness of being the only people not invited to the party (no i’m not projecting why would you suggest that?). In a sense it could be an advantage if the magic round bye is your first for the season (as opposed to copping it in round 1). More to the point, if Canberra aren’t the team left out this year, they will be soon. The 18th team can’t come soon enough.

The Hot Start

Round 1. The Cows. In Townsville. Practically in Summer. In day light.

And then excitement! The Raiders get to meet the expansion side in round two. But it’s back in the Queensland heat, playing the Dolphins in Brisbane.

What a way to start the season. As we said earlier in the week, at least it won’t be impacted by the recovery from a previous week. But there will definitely a risk about a humidity hangover that could sap strength for weeks.

Two winnable games follow, with the Sharks at home for the first time, and Knights, and the Raiders should be looking at a hot and heated start to the season. I suggest preparing for the worst.

The hard bits

Outside the heat early, there’s a few noteworthy patches. The Raiders have the premiers in round 5 – they always seem to play them around that point of the season – followed by the Broncos. Rounds 11-13 go Eels, Manly, Bunnies. The first two of those are at home. It will be hard for me to see Hodgo playing at Bruce in the wrong colours.

The Milk are also only playing at Bruce three times in the first 10 weeks of the competition. They’re actually in Queensland more often than they’re in Canberra during that time!


Unfortunately we don’t get to see the Dolphins in Canberra this year. But the trip down the Hume will be worth it. I am going this year. I promise. I’m a good luck charm I swear. Let’s turn the mojo around.

Short turnarounds

Raiders play Panthers on a five day turnaround, which sucks, but it’s the only short rest they have.

Game time

The Raiders first home game in round 3 against the Sharks is the Sunday 6pm game (gross). Their second home game is the Panthers at Friday at 6pm (double gross). They don’t get a glorious Sunday 2pm game at Bruce until round 7. Their magic round game is the dreaded Friday 6pm slot that saw the Knights kicked out of magic round for lack of engagement. There’s also Friday 6pm games v the Warriors in round 15 and round 21, and another Sunday night game v the Roosters in round 17.

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