Normally in these pages Dan or I would crack some extremely cliche joke about how the Raiders managed to grind out a win against the bye and secure two points. Unfortunately the past week and a bit has been anything but normal. For those of you who’ve just crawled out of a cave somewhere in Namadgi national park Jack Wighton has decided he’d rather spend his twilight years as a Rabbitohs, for less money than what either the Raiders or Dolphins were offering.
As always with these shock movements the NRL ecosystem is currently pulling its collective hair out over the minutiae of Wighton’s defection. This subject won’t be going away anytime soon, and does in fact have several fixed points looming on the horizon. The first of these is the Raiders road trip to Wagga for their second encounter with the Dolphins.
When these two sides first met it was the Dolphins who emerged victorious, having chased down a faltering Green Machine. With the exception of the Broncos game the Raiders have been firing on 2-3 cylinders this season. That their best game happened without someone who was clearly internally agonising over a big decision is telling. Perhaps now that Wighton has clarity about his future he might be able to focus himself across eighty minutes each weekend and give his teammates, coach, club and fans the quality football they deserve.
Team list thoughts
Frustrations with Wighton aside, the Raiders have named one of their strongest possible lineups. Savage remains a no-show, his journey back to first grade following the correct path for a junior player who needs to be eased back into the tempo of top-flight footy.
The only other notable absence is Cotric who’s picked up his second injury of the season. His hamstring going against the Dragons means Rapana can fill in for him, with room left for young Hoppa to continue his first grade development and veteran Croker to inch ever closer to the big three-double-oh.
Horsburgh vs Gilbert. Big Red is still cementing his claim on the starting lock position, but it’s a role that looks so natural that most of us are wondering why he wasn’t placed there sooner. Tom Gilbert has been key to the ‘Phins punch through the middle and it should prove to be something of a running battle across the eighty minutes.
The other duo squaring off are Woolford and Marshall-King. King has been instrumental in giving the Dolphins structure and direction across the opening rounds and the same can certainly be said of Woolford in Canberra. Both will be aiming to give their team quick distribution and forward momentum.
Canberra didn’t play a minute of footy in round 8, but thanks to the weird ways that byes work in a 17 team comp they went from 15th up to 11th. They also lost the future services of a tenured player who they genuinely thought would roll into that distinct club of 300 games in lime green.
The Raiders need to cast aside the last two weeks – the undisciplined win over the Dragons, the media furore around Wighton – and just focus on the Dolphins in the here and now. Muscle in early on in tackle counts, kick to the corners and go from there.
Raiders by a hard fought 8!
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oh fer f**k’s sake!…
is it too much to hope to see Woolford get a full game?
which would free up a bench place for a Schiller..or Valemei
or God forbid start with Schneider and bring Jack Wighton in off the bench…
The strongest line up yet..hope you’re right.