Savage Smokescreen?


Xavier Savage has been named to play NSW Cup this week. On the wing.

I know I know. I’m as surprised as you are. When the podcasting legend Lobby (the former co-host of the groundbreaking league podcast League By the Fireplace) pointed it out it I didn’t believe him. Then I checked the link. And checked it again. And sent it to people to make sure I was reading it properly. Sure enough there he was.

Savage has been out since the preseason with a broken jaw. We’ve been eagerly awaiting his return because it would naturally fix a lot of the gaps in the Raiders backline that have existed so far this season. We had many hopes of Savage coming back into the top line as a point of difference for the Milk’s attack. And yet here he is, a point of difference in a competition he outgrew 12 months ago in a position he barely played in juniors and we quickly discovered didn’t suit him.

So what on earth is he doing in Cup footy. On the wing.

There’s a school of thought that Savage should be playing his way back into first grade. I can understand this to an extent. If Canberra were 4-2 instead of 2-4 it would make sense. If the Raiders had an attack that was humming you’d probably be wary about changing things up too much. If Seb Kris had proven himself indispensable as a fullback I would get it. But they’re not, it isn’t, and poor Seabass hasn’t deserved what he’s been through. Given that there’s already been change from that line-up, that Savage is clearly in the best 13 when healthy, and that the Green Machine could desperately use a game-changing attacking weapon, this isn’t roundly convincing. So this explanation – of a lesson and a settled line up isn’t particularly convincing to me. It may still be right though.

There’s a case to be made that he’s underdone physically. If this is something about protecting his jaw it isn’t. The risk of a broken jaw is the same no matter what level he’s playing. But the job of a fullback is a strenuous one, requiring a complex mix of aerobic fitness (to chase kicks around) and strength (to fill-in at A defender in goal-line defence). Perhaps eight weeks or so of smoothies has left him without the strength and fitness to do the job, or at least had such an impact that it’s not clear he can do it (shouts to the genius Brenton for putting this in my mind). Allowing him to play wing in Cup allows him to test his athletic ability, followed by another two weeks of preparation for a return to first grade. I have to admit I find that the most convincing explanation – although I would assume he’d spend some time at fullback this weekend if he’s going to properly test his physical conditioning.

The other, more amusing version is that this is the ultimate Sticky Smokescreen. That in the next couple of days a player will drop out of the top-line with an injury, Savage will come back to the first grade squad and a shuffle will occur. Perhaps someone else in that back five is fighting an injury and we don’t know about it. Maybe this is a Sticky Smokescreen of the highest order, Michelangelo’s work on the Sistine Chapel, Creasy painting his masterpiece. This could be Sticky’s finest work, an entire backline shuffle around a player named out of position in NSW Cup footy. Unfortunately it just seems too many steps. Risks too much credibility. Requires too much conspiracy, even for Stuart.

If it’s the conditioning argument I can stomach it. It would seem like a responsible, prudent step. But otherwise the Raiders should be getting Savage into the team, and not through some convoluted maze of mid-week shuffles. I guess we’ll wait to see what they say. Because wow, that was a surprise.

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One comment

  1. Given the SuperCoach doesn’t even use his entire bench of it’s a matter of conditioning there’s space to carry a utility back. There would be even more space if Rocky could decide on a 80 minute hooker.


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