The Canberra Raiders got tremendous news when it was reported by Buzz Rothfield of the Daily Telegraph that Hudson Young had signed on to the end of the 2027 season.
Those who have been reading these pages for a long time know how we feel about Young, but let’s recap. He’s a unique talent – a hard working backrower with improving ball-playing skills, a brutal defensive mindset and a motor the size of Detroit. He’s got an unending ability to be in the right place at the right time, probably brought upon by the fact that he’s goddamn everywhere on a football field. Watch him next time you attend a game. In defence he covers space like a linebacker, strafing from side-to-side to clean up the defensive errors of anyone in his eye sight. In attack he never stops working, taking the dirtiest carries alongside chiming in on shift movements. There’s little he won’t do.
Along with Corey Horsburgh this has been arguably the Milk’s most important renegotiation. Apart from already locked down players Hudson is probably the most in-demand Raider for other teams. After losing Jack already Canberra really needed to ensure that other players didn’t follow him out the door. This is the first and most important step to doing that.
Young may not entirely be a local product, but his success also speaks to Canberra’s ability to identify and develop talent. They likely only got their hands on him because of a failed test for performance enhancing drugs at 16, and other teams might have given up on him after his debut season in which he got in trouble (twice!) for eye-gouging. So many of the Milk’s best recruits come from making other people’s discards into an edible meal. Well give the man some stars because Hudson Young is the real deal.
Signing Young locks up a position that is incredibly hard to service at the moment. Ask yourself who are in the Raiders plans for the other backrower spot? Most of them are locked up, because good edge forwards are hard to find. It requires both brutality and agility. Guile and grunt. Young can battle with the middles. He can keep up with backs. He can create for those outside him, or jump on the end of a crash ball. When you find these players you need to keep them. And the Raiders are doing just that.
For a player that had the issues he had in making it to the big time, it’s interesting that this is a low-risk extension. Young has proven in the last few years that he’s a representative level footballer, even if the NSW and Australian selectors are yet to agree. Moreso he’s broadly been consistent in playing at that level, and has proven in 2023 that whatever leap he made in 2022 wasn’t just a one-season thing. Indeed if anything this season has shown he’s adding more strings to his bow. Yes his perpetual motion (and refusal to obey the laws of thermodynamics) is a big part of his appeal, and his ability to make big plays at massive times is a huge benefit. But this year we’ve seen proof that his creative skills continue to improve, and have progressed from ‘nice to have’ to ‘actually very good’. The trajectory feels constant.
The only area of his game we hadn’t seen get fully utilised was his line running ability, but even in recent games the Raiders have been finding more and more ways to get him hitting a hole rather than having to push defenders off like a bouncer ejecting an unruly patron. But even *that* is a good thing. Some players only want to do the fun stuff. Hudson loves footy, for the banter, for the bashing, for the hard work and the good times. He’ll run a fun line in a shift movement. He’ll also take the third carry of a set that’s going nowhere, push off three defenders for 5 metres and a quick ruck. That’s a player you can build a pack around.
That he’s doing this at *this* point of his career is such a good thing. Teams are ready for him now, aware of his strengths (and presumably targeting any weakness). In this circumstance many young players seem to be regressing, or plateauing, as they have to adjust to the spot-lights now on them on the field. Young hasn’t been fazed this season, instead performing as well, or even better than last year.
Put simply he keeps getting better. That’s a good thing. The Raiders deal is a big investment as an aggregate ($2.8m!). As a year-to-year bet $700k is a worthy deal for a backrower representative footballer. Given the cap has gone up, and that the Milk have in the past had to give (or just given, who knows) similar deals to backrowers on the other end of their primes, it’s an efficient way to spend money. He’s shown not only can he still improve, but that he is capable of doing so even when everyone is watching. That’s smart spending, and hopefully not for the last time.
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