The importance of Emre Guler


For Canberra to be successful in 2023, they need a big year from Emre Guler.

Players like Emre are always important. The easiest and most efficiency way to make a good side amazing is for the people on the fringes to prove their worth. In 2019 that was players like Nicoll-Klokstad, Young, Sutton, Horsburgh and Guler all proving themselves first grade worthy. The Raiders turned a squad full of unknowns into a grand final team. There were a lot of reasons for that, but the step up of the lesser-known players was a big part of it. Middle forwards in particularly seem like an area where careers can go from a stand-still to rolling with a good off-season and a focused mind. There a plenty of examples historically, but you don’t have to look further than Joe Tapine for the impact that conditioning and mindset can play in turning frustratingly imperfect output into something beautiful.

Canberra will need Guler to perform at a higher level than he has for the club. Indeed Coach Stuart is keen for someone to step up to prove that bench middle spot is there. As he said

I’ve got a lot of good kids coming through. I know we’ll be debuting a few this year. One or two have probably played one or two games. We’re in a position now where we need these young blokes to come through


As we flagged recently, the Milk have entered 2023 with some change around the middles. They’ve lost key minutes in the middle, and it’s likely they start the year with a mixture of Corey Horsbrugh and Corey Harawira-Naera playing big minutes at the 13, with Big Red starting. As Sticky says, they need someone to step up. Front of line should be Guler, likely be the senior prop waiting on the bench. He will be the first given the job to either keep up the success that the ‘big three’ have established, or be the person that change the pace of the game if things aren’t going to plan. If he doesn’t seize the opportunity, then the Raiders may be relying on multiple fringe forwards to make the step up and take that role. It’s a risk preferably not realised.

Will Guler take the opportunity? It’s hard to say. At this stage it feels like he’s a known quantity. At 25, he’s the same age bracket as Hudson Young and Corey Horsburgh, but noticeably hasn’t made the same progress as them. Whereas both Young and Horsburgh have felt like they keep reaching new levels, and building expectations for bigger and better things, Guler has felt more in stasis over the last few years. Near enough to first grade, usually squeezing on to the bench, but rarely exciting. There are moments he looks wonderful, but they’re not evolved into anything more consistent or productive. Indeed, on a per game his 2022 output was the lowest it’s been outside of his injury-ravaged 2020 season (his metres, metres per game, post contact metres, and even in his defensive output were all at their nadir).

Even his best last year was underwhelming. When he returned to the side in round 18 for the first time in three months, we were excited by what we saw. Over the next few rounds he seemed to run with a bit more energy, and more success, particularly against the Storm and Warriors. Over those rounds and the following game against the Titans his output (35 minutes, 9 carries for 99m v the Storm, 49 minutes 11 carries for 113m v the Warriors, 32 minutes, 9 carries for 81m) was above his season average of 76 metres. And while this mini purple patch was impressive (defence aside – his tackle efficiency was 87 per cent, poor for a middle), and important contributions to the victory, they felt more like how things should be every week, as opposed to stand-out performances for the season.

One might expect aggregate numbers like that to be unimpressive given his lower minute totals, but even on a proportional basis Guler sits behind his more esteemed colleagues. Below we can see his post contact metres per run, and tackle breaks per run, neither which are particularly impressive, especially given he would rarely be exhausted from over-working.

PlayerMinsRunsPost contact metresPCM/runPCM/minTackle breaksTB/runTBs/min
*These numbers are a bit rubbery – they were put together through a mix of, Fox and Zerotackle numbers because rugby league statistics are a mess.

In moments Emre has often seemed to possess enough talent and skill to be a success in first grade. He’s got plenty of size, and enough power and dexterity in the line to make more people miss than he has historically done. He’s got better hands than he’s often given credit for, and he’s an excellent passer through the middle third. He should be more effective than he has been so far in his Raiders’ career. But as yet he hasn’t found his best on a consistent basis. With an opportunity to be the big dog coming off the bench to punish the opposition, this is a perfect moment for him to step up and prove his worth. Combine that with the fact he’s playing for a new deal and you would hope that Emre is ready for a big year.

Joe Tapine certainly thinks he’s ready to make that leap, giving him the old ‘training the house down’ endorsement.

Emre’s been training the house down. Seeing what he’s doing in the gym and on the field and the wrestle mat – I reckon he’s in for a big season so I’m looking forward to seeing what he does.

Joey Taps

It’s a trope and potentially just an elder statesman trying to acknowledge the hard work of a colleague, attempting to build the confidence of a player that Tapine knows will need to outdo the performance of previous years in order for the Milk to succeed. That Joe also spoke of Trey Mooney and Ata Mariota just before the above comments could indicate Tapine is aware of the need for the “fringe” players to step up. But that Emre, in his fifth year of first grade, is still in that grouping says much about the leap we have been waiting for him to make.

So here’s hoping Emre is ready to take on a bigger role and more responsibility. He needs to do it to ensure his contract year ends in celebration. But as importantly, the Raiders need it because Joe Tapine can’t do it on his own.

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