Epiphany: Big Red


The secular definition of the word “epiphany” is “a moment of sudden or great revelation or realisation”. For some years now I have held the opinion that NRL players, like any athlete, reach a point in their career where they are suddenly granted the ability to see the game they’re in.

This is not the same as being a league prodigy. Prodigies catch alight and burn at a near consistent brightness nearly their entire career. They do get better, simply because playing inevitably makes you better, but they very rarely dip in ability before they retire.

The epiphany player is different. They show promise in junior grades, glimpses of potential, but they’re still raw materials, the rare earths being separated from the rough ore. When they finally reach first grade it often takes more than one season for them to achieve enlightenment. They make mistakes, become frustrated and sometimes take two steps back for every step forward.

Joseph Tapine had his epiphany last year. He tightened up his diet, cut out the beers and knuckled down to end the season as the Dally M prop of the year. The other key part of this ascendance was his shift in position, from lock to prop (You can argue that he’s had mini-epiphanies before, as Dan did back in 2020).

In pop culture terms the epiphany is Neo’s virtual “awakening” in the Matrix – the veil of illusion falls away, the never-ending streams of code laid bare.

Corey Horsburgh can see the code.

Big Red’s epiphany starts with misdirection. Through the Raiders two preseason trial games he is diabolical, dropping the Steeden like it’s a burning coal covered in fire-proof tarantulas. All the Corey-isms we’ve come to know are present, passion and frustration coiling together inside a player who can almost see beyond the here and now.

For the first two games of the season he impresses off the bench, punching in good numbers, and we all breathe a collective sigh of relief. He manages to get under the skin of Royce Hunt in round 3, the Raiders recording their first win. His numbers dip, along with everyone else in green as Canberra cop a shock loss to a middling Knights outfit and then an absolute drubbing from the Panthers.

Then the Raiders travel to Brisbane. They shouldn’t win. The Broncos are undefeated, nigh on invincible in their Lang Park fortress. Canberra are without Wighton and Tapine. A heroic loss would be acceptable to most.

The Raiders have other ideas. They absolutely smother the Broncos in defence, and no-one is perhaps more in their face than Horse. He is everywhere, including up in the face of Adam Reynolds when the Broncos half tries to get a tactical kick away. The ensuing charge down crushes the Broncos that little bit more. Later he helped Hudson Young disrupt another last tackle play, covering thirty metres on the ground from marker to take a ball-runner into touch.

The Raiders back up their monster upset with an all-too familiar cellar-dweller scrap against the Dragons.

But over rounds 9 and 10 something happens. The fog of war clears from the field, and now Big Red, in his new found position of lock, can see everything. He records a whopping 190 metres from 24 runs against the Dolphins, with nearly half of those (94m) coming as post contact gains. Against the Bulldogs he registers 180 metres from 17 carries, with 76 metres post contact (one of his early carries accounts for nearly a third of his post contact work).

It’s not just the metres and the defensive effort either. So often he’s a critical link in Canberra improving attack in the opposition’s twenty, his deft passing and straightness in attack promoting the ball quickly whilst keeping defenders in two minds.

It’s quite clear to all and sundry that Horsburgh has gone up a level. His name is now in the broader Origin dialogue, and while it’s probably a stretch to see him in the Maroons 17 for game 1 (unless you’re Dan who has been predicting this since 2020 and as recently as January) I for one would be shocked if he didn’t get a foot into the Queensland camp.

Much of the credit for the Raiders flourishing but still developing attack can be placed at the feet of Horse and the two starting props either side of him. His willingness to scrap for the little things are suddenly turning sliding door moments in Canberra’s favour.

It’s still early days in this new era of Big Red but I’m loving every minute of it, and looking forward to what comes next.

To paraphrase Morpheus: I’m starting to believe.

You can follow Rob on Twitter here. Or you can do us a solid and like our page on Facebook, or share this on social media. Don’t hesitate to send us feedback (dan@sportress.org) or comment below if you think we are stupid. Or if we’re not.

One comment

  1. And imagine how much better Horse will be with an Origin camp and a few more seasons under his belt! He may not be at Lazarus level just yet but the stars are aligning & his footballing career is on the ascent.


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