From the moment we saw him play in person in glorious afternoon sun in Wagga Wagga in round 8 2019, this page has been unashamedly positive about Hudson Young.
To be honest I’m shocked it took me 8 rounds. We defended him in the face of his eye-gouging issues in 2019. Before the 2020 season we argued people were sleeping on him. That year we said he’d play rep footy one day. We pitched him as a solution for John Bateman’s departure at the end of that year. We lauded his extension with the club, and then worried when the club took a few days to announce it. When he was out for a week or so in 2021 we had a thousand-word sook. Before last season we predicted he’d have a break out year, and then we he did we said he should play for Australia.
So safe to say this is a safe space for your Hudson Young love. Come in, sit down. We’ll fix you a drink, poke you in the eye for old times sake and watch his no look pass on repeat. Or his match winning try. Or maybe his willingness to run across the field to try and stop a try because his motor is as endless as my verbosity. Or marvel as how he seems to defend such a wide acre of space by himself, that when a team does score anywhere in his vicinity it seems such an outlier Malcolm Gladwell engages in some pseudo-academic reasoning to explain the phenomenon.
Fuck it let’s just bung it on anyway.
After last season the property we own on Hudson Young island has become so valuable that we’ve started making spurious claims about density and je nais se quois of the neighbourhood to stop too many people from crowding our space. He was simply elite. At his position he was second in the competition in total try involvements, third in line breaks, top 10 in try assists, line-break assists, try contributions and tackle breaks. Proving how often he did it by himself, he led the competition in dummy-half runs by a second-rower. Give him the ball. He’ll sort it out.
We tell you what you already know not to bask in the glow of his radiance, or to give ourselves a pat on the back for getting one right (other players we were convinced would be stars: Mitch Cornish, Michael Dobson, Joe Picker, Sam Williams, Willie Raston, Zip zip Zillman, Royston Lightning). After all, most of you were on this island with us. We were not unique in the genius of spotting the very good footy player was in fact, very good. Rather, it’s to acknowledge how far he has come and how much he has achieved in a relatively short period of time. He’s gone from people literally wanting him banned for life to being a fringe representative player, and all that’s passed is a couple of years and a goddamn pandemic.
Instead of being someone that, for the most part, only Raiders fans got excited about, Hudson Young is now a made man, so to speak. All eyes are on him. In the Daily Telegraph’s otherwise comical preview of the Raiders upcoming season they spared a special section for him, excited for his ‘controlled aggression’ (read that as he didn’t eye gouge anyone for the third successive season. Congrats!). If the Tele’s esteemed array of non-rugby league watching rugby league journalists have managed to work out who Hudson is, you can be sure that the rest of the competition is paying attention.
And this will have ramifications for Young. Part of the reason (though by no means anything approaching all) that Young was so successful in special moments is that no one expected it. That flick pass was so surprising at the time it seemed a ghost had imbued his spirit (i’m thinking some sort of ‘Sixth Man’ scenario – there’s a gift for lovers of obscure Wayans brothers films). The grubber for himself to win the Knights game was a peak ‘no-no-yes’ moment. But even less dramatic than that, Young’s still rising star was allowed space to shine, both on the field and by a rugby league commentariat that had no interest in noticing him until he started doing frankly ridiculous shit.
He will no doubt draw more attention this season, and that could mean a reduction of his ‘notable’ moments. It’ll be hard to surprise everyone with a grubber for yourself if everyone is expecting it. Defenses will shade towards the lines he runs, and no one will be shocked by the right arm belligerently punching them in the chest. He’ll get less time to operate on sweeping movements (not that he had a lot before), and he’ll be asked to make decisions in smaller windows.
This, of course, could have benefits for the people around him. Defences are normally very keen to keep an eye on Jack Wighton, but if they start game planning for Young, it may provide more space for Jack to operate. Or at least more opportunities to burn someone one-on-one. Using Young on strong ‘decoy ‘first-man’ (and often decoy) lines – something that the Milk didn’t do much in 2022 – could be a good way to draw defence an open space out the back. Seb Kris, or Harley Smith-Shields (should he usurp the Seabass) may find himself in acres of space a little more regularly than in the past. It would reduce the chances that Young has to engage the line, make a man miss, and create, but it could also facilitate a more balanced and structured attack on leftwards shifts. So it could help the team, even if it means Hudson’s day-to-day is a little harder, and his moments in the highlights reels a little less frequent.
This, of course, is part and parcel with getting better. As we’ve so often said in these pages, development isn’t linear, and part of that is because proving your worth presents a new set of challenges, and a new set of problems to solve. Young will continue to do the things he’s great at – brilliant ball-play, hard running, and endless motor and excellent defence. All these things can continue, if perhaps a little beyond the limelight. But he may just have to spend a little time consolidating his current platform before making his next leap.
That’s fine. If Young is ‘quiet’ over the first few months of the season, this will not be a reason to panic. He’s just out here getting his Will Hunting on, putting pen to paper on a harder problem than was offered last year. The talent is there. The attitude is there. Hudson Young is going to be amazing. We’ve been telling you for years.
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