Mid-season Report Card
The Green Machine has been spluttering along this season, in need of a serious overhaul. And while the patch-up job done a few weeks ago has given some pleasant recent results, it remains to be seen whether their ‘turbo’ of talent will finally kick in.
It will take a huge effort for the Raiders to resurrect their season to a level like that of the one that saw them play finals football in 2008. They might be just four competition points from the top eight – but they have already had both of their byes for the year so they’ll have no ‘freebies’ in the run home.
That means they need to get serious and do it now, especially as they open the back half of the year with three home games out of four.
Once seen as a fortress, Canberra Stadium has only netted two wins and three losses in the opening 13 rounds. This has hurt the Raiders big time.
Are Things Going To Plan?… Certainly not, although the past fortnight has been closer to the blueprint as the Raiders belted first the Warriors (38-12) then the Rabbitohs (34-18). But before that point the Raiders had lost their opening three games and seven of their first nine to be flirting with wooden spoon territory. The exciting attacking side from last season has been packed away for most of the year, but hopefully the recent back-to-back wins prove it is back. The side has a big, physical forward pack which is rolling through teams but they must defend stouter to continue the charge.
They haven’t cracked the line anywhere near as often as last year and their try scoring is also well down. Surely the plan wasn’t to shelve the type of football that excited the masses and ushered great victories?
Injury Front… The Raiders have had a handful of minor injuries throughout the year and have already used 27 players. Of their 11 games only six players have played at least 10, making it hard for fluency amongst the team. Players like Troy Thompson, Glen Turner, Marc Herbert, Phil Graham and Justin Carney have all had their issues; for a side like Canberra, with less depth than others, this can be a real problem.
If Only… Two of the Raiders’ opening three games (they lost them all) could easily have gone their way. In Round 1 the side lost 34-26 to the Wests Tigers despite having the game in their grasp before a late flurry from the Tigers, and then in Round 3 some controversial decisions and bad luck conspired against them in an 18-16 loss to Parramatta. They had further close losses to the Gold Coast (16-10), the Bulldogs (30-20) and Panthers (18-10) so they can’t say they haven’t had good chances to be much higher on the competition ladder. The Raiders need to find a way to win the close games, or their year will be over shortly.
Who’s Flying… The Raiders haven’t had a standout performer over the entire first half of the year, although David Milne has come back into some reasonable form after a slow start. He is the lone Raider making quality metres, with 157 a match, and has added seven line breaks and four tries despite playing just six games. Terry Campese has been well below his best but has still managed to put together 12 try assists and nine line-break assists. And his kicking game remains solid.
Needs To Lift… The entire side needs to be more consistent in their performance if they are to challenge for a finals berth. The forwards are big and continue to thunder ahead – but only David Shillington (114 metres) and Josh Miller (100 metres) are averaging triple figures. The others need to lift that little bit more and they also must up the tempo of their play-the-balls to allow the Raiders to play against retreating defenders. The offloads also need to come back into their attacking structure for the same reason.
Captain Alan Tongue Tells NRL.com… “If you look at our first half you can definitely see some missed opportunities where we were in a lot of games but didn’t come out of them on the right end of the scoreboard. But in the last few weeks we have had some important, confidence-building wins which we can build off. Injury-wise we aren’t doing too badly, so touch wood we can build some momentum. We have had our two byes so we know the early part of this second half is crucial but I’m confident we’ll succeed as I can sense a real positive vibe around the place.”
Predicted Finish… The finals are out of reach for the Raiders this season. They’ll win some more games but it will be somewhere between 10th and 14th by year’s end.
Under-20s… Last season the Raiders won the Toyota Cup premiership and they started this season in similar fashion with four straight wins – but then backed it up with four consecutive losses. They then once again turned things around to put together two wins and a draw to push up into fourth spot at the turn. Fullback Josh Dugan is their standout.