In the grand scheme of things the Green Machine have largely avoided Origin related problems. Corey Horsburgh missed out, Josh Papalii and Jack Wighton both retired from rep footy. Only Hudson Young has been justly rewarded with a representative jumper. It means outside of an easy change for Corey Harawira-Naera (I think he comes in on the right, and Smell swings around to the left), there shouldn’t be much change for the Raiders this week.
My hope, however, is one other change is made. Zac Woolford missed the round 12 debacle against Manly through the concussion protocol. It’s no guarantee that he’ll be ready for this round but if he is Coach Stuart should pick him.
This is hardly a controversial statement. Anyone that watched the Raiders play on the weekend saw it desperately lacked Zac’s mix of deception, creativity and unique ability to run only when there’s metres to be had. The service was slow, and the middle suffered from it. Shift movements felt clunky again for the first time in weeks. The entire side seemed to be running in sand, a far change from the high-intensity efforts of recent weeks. It’s hard to say it was solely caused by the play of the rakes, but it’s hard to not notice his absence.
Of course this isn’t our only circumstantial evidence. Before Woolford joined the squad last season the Milk averaged 14 points a game, which jumped to the mid-20s in games he played. The Raiders have made it to mid-20s in one of the four games that Woolford has missed this year. In those four games they have averaged 17.5 points. That jumps to 22.4 with him, and that even includes games against the Panthers (where he left the game at 12-6), or the game against Newcastle where he left the game after 25 minutes having been a part of all 12 of the 14 points the good guys would score that day. Despite him only playing 46 per cent of the available minutes at 9 since round 4, the team has scored 52 per cent of their points with him on the field.
None of these numbers are definitive and it’s hard to ascribe causality when all we have are variables, eye tests and vibes. There were many, many, many more reasons Canberra lost on the weekend than their best hooker was out. But it seemed clear that between Danny Levi and Tom Starling that the Raiders ruck pace fell apart on the weekend. And that’s something that had been seemingly fixed in recent weeks. The continued stasis of the development Tom Starling’s service since 2020 has been frustrating. Danny Levi isn’t going to fix that, even with bigger minutes.
While one may think Woolford therefore becomes an easy ‘in’ so to speak I will be waiting for 4pm with anxiety and distraction to see what Coach Stuart decides. Despite it seeming obvious to us in the off-season that Danny Levi offered little different to Tom Starling, and that Woolford ruck management would be critical to the Raiders success, we still started the year with the the Levi/Starling combination. While I would think it’s obvious now that Woolford will come into to play his usual starter role, we may be put into a similar position now.
For me the question would be who he comes in for. Danny Levi played 27 minutes on the weekend and presumably is still building match fitness after a broken face. Woolford has played more than fifty minutes twice this season, more often brought off at some point before half-time. Would Coach Stuart be willing to risk having to trust Danny Levi for 50 odd minutes at this point? Would he be willing to push Woolford longer?
It may be this imperfect minute matching that sees Stuart keep his flawed dummy-half partnership. That would not be a good decision. It seems transparent that Canberra are better when Zac Woolford is on the field. Let’s hope Sticky gets him in there. It’s an easy fix.
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Yes , yes its a “lay down misere” isn’t it?
Thanks for your summary
like Charlie Watts for the Stones or Ginger Baker for Cream ( both R.I.P) the hookers keep the beat
& Zac keeps beat best
On easy fixes
Brad Schneider is ready for nrl if ever a player would thrive given game time,(Hoppa has drawn compliments from Gould)
given the same opportunity Schneider has shown he’d be right at home.
There couldn’t be a better utility player for a permanent spot.
If the Raiders don’t use him they’ll be missing out on a “real footy player,one that can catch pass run kick and tackle- as well as organise.