The season has ended, and our beloved Green Machine unfortunately didn’t make the cut for the Finals class of 2015. But how bad was this season? One cannot simply dismiss it as another dud run, because it contained so many pointers to future success. So first, let us pass an eye over the relevant information for the 24 games played by the Raiders.
Wins – 10
Losses – 14
At home – 3Wins/9Losses
On the Road – 7Wins/5Losses
All Run Metres – 36836 (6th Best NRL)
All Runs – 3859 (1st Best NRL)
Total Kicks – 457 (10th Best NRL)
Total Kick Metres – 12519 (4th Best NRL)
40/20 Kicks – 4 (Equal 1st Best NRL)
Possession Percentage – 45.917% (16th Best NRL)
Completions – 694 (8th Best NRL)
Offloads – 247 (7th Best NRL)
Tackles – 8303 (4th Best NRL)
Missed Tackles – 684 (3rd Worst NRL)
Tackle Breaks – 582 (10th Best NRL)
Line Breaks – 103 (5th Best NRL)
Tries – 97 (4th Best NRL)
Conversions – 80 (1st Best NRL)
Errors – 213 (3rd Best NRL)
These aren’t the full season stats, and we could spend hours listing each players efforts, but it gives us a snapshot of how the Raiders fared in 2015. One of the really surprising ones is the Possession stat, which shows that the Raiders did infact have a very healthy attack, they just need more time with the ball in hand to implement. This will indirectly affect defensive stats too, as more attack means less possession for opposition. Croker and Hodgson deserve recognition for the Conversion and 40/20 stats, whilst the forward pack has done well to contribute to the All Run Metres number.
The New Recruits
Canberra was lucky enough to receive a healthy influx of talent before 2015 got underway, and they each brought something different to the team.
Josh Hodgson – It was pretty hard to dig up any info on Hodgson prior to round 1 unless you were willing to sit through boring super league clips on youtube, but his impact on the side became readily apparent within the first few rounds.
Defining moment: In the Albury game against Manly Hodgson had the composure and forethought to kick a scintillating 40/20. Standing just outside the 40 metre line at dummy half he scooped up the ball and took one step back before launching a spot on kick to carry the Raiders 40 metres up field.
Needs more of: Game time and short kicking ability. Hodgson managed to rack up at least two 80 minute efforts in the back end of the season, and we’re pretty sure with a good off season he can be a consistent 80 minute man in 2016. Hopefully he’ll add some variety to his short kicking game too.
Blake Austin – Shunned by the Tigers Austin made his way to the Capital where he quickly cemented his name in the #6 jersey. For at least the first 11 rounds he terrorised oppositions with his uncanny knack to exploit even the smallest hole, whilst selling dummies like they were solid gold.
Defining moment: Pick any of the slightly overacted dummies he sold defenders on, or his perfectly timed support play, usually backing up from the initial break made by him.
Needs more of: General play kicking skills and more play (PASSING!) awareness. While Austin is definitely talented in the “Go it alone” skill set he needs to expand his game to incorporate those around him better: A charging Papalii is not to be ignored.
Sia Soliola – Soliola brought a calming and inspirational vibe to the Raiders forwards in 2015, running great lines in offence and making smart moves in defence. His determined work ethic matches that of Raiders stalwart Shaun Fensom, and it was telling that the Raiders did struggle somewhat when Soliola was finally ruled out of 2015 with a cheek fracture.
Defining moment: Soliola gave Tigers halfback Luke Brooks a true League initiation when he floored him in a monster tackle in the Raiders come from behind win at Leichardt Oval.
Needs more of: To be honest, we just want more Sia, so a full 24 games without injury would be ace in 2016.
Sisa Waqa – Waqa has also represented the green Machine well in 2015. While not as key as the other three recruits he has added depth to an already solid backline. Despite being an interchangeable centre/winger Waqa has covered all three backline positions, and for the most part has acquitted himself well in any given role. His Storm bred defensive skills have helped to rein in some of the problems the Raiders face in edge defence.
Defining moment: Waqa caught a pearler of a Cornish kick to grab the Raiders only try against the Warriors in round 2.
Needs more of: Being left in one position so he can be properly focused.
Sam Williams – Whilst technically not a new recruit Williams did get a second crack at a Raiders jersey in 2015, after a year off wandering from the Dragons to the Super League. His play in 2015 was hot and cold. Hot was against the Cowboys at home, where his positional kicking kept the raiders in the game until the end – Cold was his effort against the Warriors where every kick found a defender on the full.
Defining moment: William’s effort against the Cowboys at home was the kind of stuff that makes you cry a bit inside because it is so good. His rhythm and accuracy were spot on, directing play around the park like he’d been the Raiders #7 for three years running (if only).
Needs more of: Luck, to be honest. With Sezer arriving any day now William’s future isn’t looking too good, unless he can somehow find a way to grab Austin’s jersey.
Look, I started this before the Meninga Medals were given out, and in hindsight I’m going to stick with what me and the others decided – Josh Hodgson is our 2015 Raiders MVP.
Here’s why – Without Hodgson at 9 we would never have had anywhere near the level of service that he provides, the quick ball to big forwards that allows the Raiders to barrel up the middle of the field, the vision that allows him to see both sides of the ruck, the instinct of when it is or isn’t time to go it himself, the ability to kick momentum shifting 40/20s, the overall crisp passing and general leadership that he provides.
You put any of our three other options (shudder) in there and we would have struggled. Baptiste is fine as an infrequent visitor, but even in his periods of play the team seems to slow down just a fraction. Hodgson is not just a great player in himself, but a great energizer of his teammates.
END OF AN ERA
Against the Eels David Shillington played the last game of a 7 year stint at the Raiders, ending a period of towering forwards. For a while there the raiders had the three biggest/tallest men in the game – Shillington, Learoyd-Lahrs and Tilse. A forward pack of that stature may never be seen again, although the raiders do have two heirs-apparent in the form of Boyd and Vaughan. Shillington returned to near peak form this year (don’t mention the offloads!) and his impact at the line will be missed.
So, how do we rate the Raiders in 2015? While they didn’t make the finals they came reasonably close, and there were a lot more positive signs than there were at this time last year.
The roster has undergone an upgrade, and younger players are now starting to mature into proper footballers.
Players that were hindering the side have been shown the door and there is a general positive feeling that the Green Machine can make the 8 in 2016.
So in conclusion we award the Raiders a 2015 grade of: