Off the Schneid?


Brad Schneider is coming in for Matt Frawley this week.

This is a claim not based on mail, or any inside line that I have (I have zero inside lines. I am lineless. My lines are landlines – I do not have one and neither do you). It’s based on the sheer obviousness that the Raiders have zero other options. Jack Wighton is suspended, Matt Frawley is injured. Jamal Fogarty will play, and he needs a halves partner. Unless Stuart goes funky – and given the Raiders’ attack this year is about exciting as a Big Bang Theory marathon that feels unlikely – Schneider will be given his first opportunity in first grade since Fogarty came back from injury to start last season.

This is unquestionably a good thing, both for Bradley and for the Milk. Schneider has been one of the ‘next’ generation of Raiders ready to come through for a few years now. After debuting for mere Subloo in 2021 he started 2022 as halfback through the first half of the season as Jamal Fogarty nursed a healing knee. In this short trip he was solid if not spectacular. 10 games, 1 try, 3 try-assists, and solid defence were enough to earn him the rookie of the year award. Since that time he’s always looked a step above NSW Cup footy.

At just 22 Schneider has his career ahead of him. To me he’s shown enough to suggest he’s worth pursuing. He’s a capable right-side ball-player, with a good running game and a solid defence. If there’s a criticism it’s that he seemed helpless to solve the hapless Canberra hive-mind in early 2022, but expecting a first-gamer to take control of a team with so many leaders (and so many problems) is asking a lot. But our takes are not the clubs’ (obviously).

Notably he’s off contract after this season and for all we can tell Canberra has yet to prioritise him for retention. We’ve seen the public conversation about Jack Wighton, and word spread last week that the club was already engaging with Hudson Young (yay) and Emre Guler. It’s not really surprising that Schneider isn’t ahead of those, but it would be nice to get an indication if he was part of the club’s future plans.

In fact our only information is that he so far this year has fallen behind Matt Frawley in the Raiders’ depth chart. The club has been forced to play second-string halves in two games this season, and on both occasions has chosen Matt Frawley. One may be tempted to consider this a comment on Schneider’s development, or lack thereof, and worry that the prince who was promised is nothing of the sort. Two occasions, two opportunities to get a future star more time in first grade and Stuart turns to a journeyman?

It’s worth pointing out that both of these had circumstantial aspects to them. In one Jamal Fogarty fell ill at the last moment, and the Canberra prioritised experience over talent in the late exchange. In the second the fit – Wighton out, naturally left side Frawley in – may have driven decision-making. While I would have hoped Schneider’s talent may have led to different decisions, it’s possible that those choices were driven by specific factors than any concern about the young man.

Indeed it more likely a reflection of the overly conservative approach Coach Stuart has taken to this year. Calling it a symptom feels like an insult to the shoe-man, but it is indicative of a mindset that is trying not to lose. Frawley is a known quantity at this point. A solid footy player, he has the brain but not the athleticism to seriously threaten opposition defences. In picking the elder statesman, Stuart was backing a style of play (step 1: crash balls, step 2:??? step 3: victory!) rather than making a choice about Schneider.

So while it wasn’t a referendum on Schneider (vote yes), it is a missed opportunity. Schneider may not be a star (yet) but he could have offered something more dynamic. At the very least the Raiders would have got more game tape that could inform a contract decision later in the year, not to mention a better picture of whether Jamal Fogarty, a free agent at 1 November, should be offered a short or long deal, or a deal at all. Only ill-fortune, two times over, will result in Schneider getting a game in the top-line and dragging Stuart out of this particularly rut.

It will be curious as to how he’s used. Will he sit on the right, with Fogarty shifting across to play in Jack’s normal role? Or will he be given the left side duties. I can see the arguments for both. On the right he gets to ease into a spot and set of decisions that he makes most weekends in Cup footy, and has made in the top line before. He gets two very good ball-runners on his outside shoulder (should he choose to use them) in Matt Timoko and Corey Harawira-Naera. On the left he can fill in Wighton’s role, utilising perhaps his most obviously quality skill – hard ball-running – in the closest thing the Raiders will get to a like-for-like replacement for Jack. It’s a spine of constant sorrow change at the moment, so having three players in the same spot for more than five minutes is probably a key place to start.

(A word to the wise, don’t start thinking about the long-term implications of where Schneider is picked. Does picking him on the left mean Stuart trusts him to do something new or that he doesn’t see him a long-term option on the right? Is picking him on the right proof that he’s the future or proof that Stuart thinks he can only do one thing? Someone come get me I’m spiralling).

There’s not a lot to look forward to right now. At the very least getting Schneider on the field is an opportunity to see what he’s learned, and just how far along he is. Here’s hoping it’s not all the Raiders get from this game.

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