The Raiders season is over. Sure it’s mathematically possible for them to make the finals, but given how things have gone lately for the boys in green, it’s about as likely as our Prime Minister supporting marriage equality – don’t pack your celebration pants. And while it’s tempting to see these last couple of rounds as a waste of time, this part of the year can provide us with insight that can influence the direction of the Raiders next year. Just think how different things would be if Mitch Cornish hadn’t shown how composed and talented he was at the back of last year?
*wistfully stares off into the distance*
Regardless, the Sportress will be watching the game on Saturday, and you should too. Manly are suddenly the form team of the competition, much to the chagrin of pretty much everyone bar Tony Abbott (Two political references in one post! We’ll have to tag it #auspol!). In the last two weeks they’ve beaten both the Broncos and the Bunnies and are currently scaring the crap out of everyone
The thing that is fascinating about the Sea-Eagles recent resurgence is the fact that their forwards amazingly haven’t sucked. When the Raiders played them earlier in the year, the rolled up and down the field against a disinterested and overmatched forward pack. Vaughan, Fensom, Papali, Kennedy and Soliola all had over 100 all-run metres in that game. For the Bunnies last week, only George Burgess had over 100 metres. The previous week only Sam Thaiday had over 100 metres for the battered Broncos.
The Raiders meanwhile fell apart thanks to possibly the worst performance a professional halves pairing will give in a National Rugby League game. They’ve been close but no cigar recently and will be keen to get a win on the board (I mean, I assume so. No one likes losing).
Big Three – Raiders
Josh Hodgson: Look it’s been brought to our attention that some of us at the Sportress are a little too excited by Josh Hodgson’s play. But let me just say this. Last week he was amazing. And he played his first full game. He set up tries, he supported breaks, and he directed our forwards. All while stumbling about with a high-ankle sprain.
Jarrod Croker: Sometimes I feel we take Croker for granted. Every time he gets the ball he bends the line, he’s always there when a break is made and he’s never once punched Jarrod Maxwell in the face. Stronger men have failed to show such restraint.
Blake Austin: Blake was so bad last week even the most ardent fan was wondering if maybe Blake had suffered some sort of ‘Freaky Friday’ situation and was not feeling himself. All he needs to do is work out how to pass the ball to the now pulverising Josh Papali and everything will be sweet.
Big Three – Sea-Eagles
Jake Trbojevic: With Big Willie’s styles relegated to the sideline on account of his inability to keep up with the ‘fluid’ approach to rule enforcement taken by the NRL judiciary, the less sexy Trbojevic will need to fill that space in the middle of the park to combat the Raiders forwards.
Justin Horo: Buggering off to France next year, Horo has had a lot of fun rampaging down the edge as he did against the Bunnies and the Broncos recently. Given the Raiders often leaky edge defence, Horo could find himself making big yards on Sunday.
Keiran Foran: Foran has always rankled me because a) he is good and b) he does not play for the Raiders. He’s been in excellent form recently, scoring and setting up tries as he utilises all the space created by his rejuvenated forward pack. Please someone stop him please.
You Wot Mate?
So Dave Shillington didn’t get suspended for headbutting Aaron Woods on Monday night. Let that sink in. The first player sent off in two years successfully laid a headbutt on someone, failed at another attempt, and was not suspended.
And all Bronnie did was take a sneaky helicopter flight!
Josh Hodgson does amazing things and a certain Sportress writer is found outside his house late at night holding a boombox over his head. Raiders win because let’s just pretend for a bit ok?