The Hard Word


As far as you or I know, the prayer for a miracle that is Canberra’s chase of David Fifita continues.

This pursuit has been similar to many other failed, and successful, pursuits by the Milk in recent times. We’ve had all the familiar steps in the process. The rumours eking out to the media. The tempered confirmation of a pursuit by the CEO. Poor bloggers losing their goddamn minds. It’s had everything but Sticky quote.

(And when that happens, *then* we get excited because if he says they’re trying to bring someone in he’s not fucking about).

To an extent the processes have been so consistent and clear with previous that it’s allowed us to assess – to our limited capacity – the likelihood of success. We are still in the camp this is an epic Raider Raise. The Milk’s interest is clear, and the pitch made plain for all to see. Let’s make a new power couple, and King and Queen of Canberra, to sit on the throne on the park bench on City Hill (true story we called that capital hill when I was growing up) to survey their domain. The reported potential pay cut, the interest of other sides, and the fact that Fifita doesn’t need to sign a deal now have led us to believe this is more about maximising his next deal rather than finding a new home. Sigh. That glass ain’t close to half-full up over here. Sorry.

But it’s not all be a repeat affair. Even if this is all for nought, it’s at least revealed some new and newish steps in the recruitment the Raiders have been willing to get involved in. The first interesting addition is how brazenly public and speculative this recruitment has been. The Raiders haven’t been backwards about confirming their pursuit, even with it seemingly clear that it’s far from given they will be successful. They’ve met with Fifita’s management, something that has often occured privately without comment by the Milk. This time they confirmed information I had assumed had been leaked by the Fifita camp in order to drive interest elsewhere. It’s been fascinating. Previously, by the time the public became informed that a storm was brewing, we were already covered in rain. To push a poor metaphor too far, this time we’ve got a ten-day forecast and plenty of reason to complain the weatherman has no idea was he’s talking about.

This has only become more interesting with the unusual and noteworthy entrance of players into this discussion. Generally the Raiders players side-step any questions about recruitment as adeptly as Kenny Nagas stepping the Dogs fullback in the 1994 grand final. But last week both Tom Starling and Corey Harawira-Naera fronted the media and gave not just token answers, but rather elongated explanations. Indeed Harawira-Naera, who’s playing time would likely be impacted by the arrival of Fifita, gave an impressively detailed outline of Fifita’s career, what he’d bring, and unintentionally outlined a key limitation on the Milk’s ability to snare him.

He’s played Origin, played for Tonga in the World Cup as well. He’s a handful with the ball as well… He’s a good player. I’ve played against him for a while and he’s five years younger than me. He’s only going to get better as well so if we can afford to get him down here it’ll be good.

Harawira-Naera to the Canberra Times

This pitch by the players, and the club, publicly is unusual. Combine that with the willingness to leverage the ‘pull’ factors that signing the equally brilliant Shaylee Bent to the Valkyrie’s line-up, and it’s clear the make up of the process is a little bit different this time around. Fifita is being surrounded on multiple sides by players, club officials, and potentially his partner letting him know about how great Canberra is (David there’s a beach now did you know?). It suggests a confidence in the appeal of the Raiders that hasn’t been obvious before, and even if it doesn’t work out this time, it could be the foundation of more ambitious recruitment in the future.

Is it ad-hoc, or are the Raiders trailing a new method? It feels more former than the latter. Sending out the club, and the players, to campaign for a free-agents is fine until it doesn’t work. If it becomes a staple way of working, then the Milk risk their own reputation by so often becoming the side that gets spurned that ‘spruiking’ starts to look desperate. In addition, limiting your target to stars with NRLW footballers as their partners feels like a limited pool (and they’ve already missed out on one power couple).

But like most recruitment drives for the Green Machine they’re working with the advantages they have. We’ll be watching eagerly to see if it pays off. Maybe the hard word works after all.

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