A sunken depth chart


An almost comical set of affairs has besieged the Raiders.

Hudson Young was the jenga tile that pulled the structure over. Being selected in Origin meant the Raiders were being tested at the one spot they don’t really have much depth at. It would have been all good if Elliott Whitehead hadn’t been injured. Corey Harawira-Naera was ready to be a straight swap for Hudson, to prove his big minutes (and big production) in Cup footy had been worth it. But Elliott was injured and when Coach Stuart looked further down his depth chart there was nothing but red ink.

Clay Webb – who we weren’t sure was ready for the top line – is apparently in the middle of an 11 day automatic stand-down as part of the HIA protocol. Trey Mooney – who I don’t like playing on a edge but certainly has – is also out for some time with a broken hand. And now you’ve got the wildness of Corey Horsburgh named at backrower, and Pasami Saulo telling me with a straight face that Nic Cotric might play some middle forward this weekend.

It may as well be the plot line of your favourite sports film. Bad News Raiders. Major (national rugby) League. When one player get selected for origin, the Raiders get more than they bargained for. Cue the funky music and people learning to believe in each other again. Or maybe you like action films? A rag tag bunch of mercenaries coming together for a suicide job? Ricky Stuart stands in the corner of a staid interrogation room, turns to Joey Taps and says “I need you to play lock”. “Why me?”. “Cos you’re the best.”

It’s hard to make head or tails of it. Coach Stuart is a fan of telling you one thing on team-list Tuesday and doing a whole other thing. Corey Horsburgh has played edge backrower before. He took a brief sojourn there during the trials before the 2020 season. He looked wholly out-of-place. Since then his fitness has improved and we’ve always suggested his agility is better than people remember. But that doesn’t make playing him out wider a good idea. He’s agile, yes, but agile for a middle. He’s got a great motor, sure, but that will be tested when it’s not just up-and-back, but also side-to-side and picking runners.

Corey recently was quoted as saying he doesn’t really think when he’s on the field. That was probably a bit of hyperbole, but there’s no room for idiots in solving the multi-option attack of a team like South Sydney. Canberra’s edge defence has been patchy at best recently. If Horsburgh lines up at left edge next to Jack it makes most sense – if only because putting him alongside the still developing Matt Timoko feels cruel to both of them (defensively. In attack that might be a lot of fun).

So it may not be a good idea, but it may be the only one available. The thing is is someone has to play edge, and given where the Raiders have extra players (middle forwards) and where they don’t (edge forwards) it’s no surprise that someone is making the shift out. Joe Tapine, who once was an backrower (a really good one!) is named at lock, and maybe it’ll be him that shifts out for this week at least. Sticky does love a good smokescreen. Maybe it’s Nic Cotric. At any other point if a back appeared on the bench we’d just assume Stuart was going to do that thing where they randomly come on with ten minutes to go or don’t come on at all. But given what the Raiders need this week it’s hard not to wonder if more is expected from Nic. Because more is needed.

It could come at a worse time but there’s not many. After last week’s ludicrous display the Raiders could really use a victory. Next week’s battle against the Tigers is far from a free two points and the Warriors are better than their record. This competition is close. Let’s hope these patched together edges hold.

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