What goes up must eventually come down, and on Sunday afternoon the Raiders returned to earth with a cold, hard thud. Against Manly the scrappy spark of the preceding five rounds vanished, the house of cards collapsing from the outside in. Back to square one.
While a devastating loss to a hated foe is never welcome it comes at a point in the season where teams are about to undergo a period of self discovery as Origin sequesters the best of the best leaving club footy to the rest.
The Raiders find themselves making changes under a trio of factors: Origin, injury (a return from) and suspension (for a now injured player). They need to bounce back quickly if they’re to keep a foot in the top 8, but fate has decided to serve up one of the hardest of obstacles: the Bunnies.
Road trips to Homebush are never fun at the best of times, but Canberra can take inspiration from the fact that they sprung an upset at Suncorp back in rd6, a notoriously tough venue to win at.
But how to deal with those pesky Wabbits? The first order of business should be getting Jamal back in position to execute fifth tackle options. Against Manly he fell back into the habit of getting tackled on the 5th, meaning he was removed from any kicking duties due to having to play the ball. Jack was back to being an erratic boot, and the Raiders struggled again.
The other area is defence, particularly applying pressure to contain the ball before it gets to a speedy Souths wing – again the Broncos-beating effort leaps to mind. If the Raiders can get in the way enough they can hopefully force some errors and break the Bunnies rhythm.
It’s all chop and change this week. The biggest upheaval can be found in the second row with Hudson Young off preparing for his Origin debut while Whitehead serves a two game suspension which handily doubles as a break to recover from a chest/shoulder complaint. These two absences have triggered quite the overhaul in the forwards. Saulo now partners Papa in the starting prop slots, while Tapine and Horse have shifted to lock and second row respectively. Last but not least Corey Hawawira-Naera makes a welcome return after churning out 200+ metres in the Cup game last week.
Zac Woolford is back from his head-knock mandated break and resumes his rightful place as the starting 9, much to the relief of everyone with eyes. Starling returns to his spot on the bench, where he’s joined by Guler, Mariota and Nic Cotric (who we can only assume is as surprised as we are by what Sticky seems to have in mind for him).
The other big talking point is the inclusion of Campbell Graham for Souths, who is apparently too injured to play next Wednesday but somehow okay to play this Saturday (clearly this is Souths taking their ball and going off to start a different game after Graham’s bizarre Origin omission). At least there’s no Latrell to worry about.
Jamal Fogarty vs Cody Walker. Two men who when on song basically have the ball on a string. Again I cannot stress how critical it is that Fog has control on the last play. If anyone is thinking of a run on the tackle prior it should be Wighton. Walker is a master of suffocating oppositions via kicking for repeat sets and Seb Kris will need to be eyes up and ready to move when Walker looks to grubber.
The Raiders backline needs to get back to optimum performance after the Manly edges gave them a bath. The Bunnies back five are no slouches and under ideal conditions should be hemmed in as much as possible, or sideline attacking raids will ensue.
The Bunnies are one of the form teams right now, and even sans Latrell they present a very big hurdle for Canberra. If the Raiders can knuckle down, complete and compete then they might find themselves on an even footing coming into the last ten minutes. If they lose focus though they could find themselves on the receiving end of a consecutive spanking.
Raiders by a dreamy regulation field goal!
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I’ve only been reading your collective works for a few weeks now but I am positively addicted. Keep up the good work lads
Any chance of a post origin Hudson young review? Would love to read about it and gain insight I could not possibly attain by myself.