Just like that, the Raiders were back in the winners circle. It wasn’t flashy razzle by any means, but rather 16 (poor Peter Hola) extremely determined men throwing everything they had against a side riding high in first place. The Green Machine swamped a shell-shocked Broncos side with strong defence, which in turn stifled Brisbane’s vaunted attack.
The question now is: can the Milk bring this intensity two weeks in a row? The Raiders are not a “systems” based team (at least in attack) like the Storm or Roosters. They are a team that’s currently almost wholly reliant on “the vibe”, a mishmash of individual competence and effort. They kicked off against the Broncos because a week earlier Penrith had spanked them in front of a home crowd, forcing them to address both individual and team based accountability.
The thing about effort is that as a resource it can be extremely hard to draw upon week on week. Effort is the thing you turn to when skill, intent and planning all come unstuck. You can only spring an ambush once.
The Dragons are a funny opposition for Canberra. For a huge stretch of the 2000s and early 2010s the Raiders held the upper hand in the infamous “Hoodoo” era, a period of dominance punctuated by a lone Dragons home win. The Hoodoo went on so long that the Dragons ended up signing Raiders players who had previously inflicted ongoing pain upon them over multiple seasons. The dominance ended in 2014 and since then the Raiders have struggled against the merger club, even when the Dragons themselves aren’t travelling all that well.
Team list thoughts
It’s heartening to see Sticky stand by Croker after his exemplary showing against Brisbane. His defensive efforts in shutting down Kotoni Staggs were crucial to stemming offensive runs down the Raiders left edge, and his goal kicking was crucial in terms of keeping Canberra in front on the scoreboard. Each game brings him a step closer to that awesome 300.
Wighton and Cotric both make their returns. Wighton’s absence last week gave Fogarty much more space and control, and it’s an aspect I’d like to see retained. Jack’s kicking can quite often be his undoing, and he might be more comfortable having to only choose between running or passing when he hits the line.
Cotric should be quite complementary to Croker and has the experience to know that he doesn’t need to “help in” defensively unless Croker desperately needs it. If the ball gets out to these two look to Croker to use a well timed ball to send Cotric down the sideline.
Fogarty vs Hunt will be a pivotal contest in this match. Fog had arguably his best game in green against the Broncos, his deft kicking controlling game tempo while also removing a lot of chances for Reece Walsh to get going. His opponent Hunt is an experienced 7 and knows how to win (awkward grand final moments not withstanding). If the Raiders forwards can get on the front foot and make space it’ll give both Fogarty and Wighton time to formulate play as they approach the line.
The Milk have a real chance to build on something here. Two rounds ago they hit rock bottom, only to bounce back and knock the high flying Broncos back to earth. They absolutely need to bring the same level of defensive intensity as last week, as well as some more refined attack (and restraint where necessary). Completions and possession as always remain key.
Raiders by a cynic’s optimistic 10 points
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