Sudden Death Mega Destiny Edition!
Raiders Fans! Come in, sit down. We need to talk about some things, things that may be hard to hear. Firstly though, let’s all take a moment to think about how awesome and rad our beloved Green Machine are. 2016 was originally going to be the year where the Raiders went either ok or slightly above average. For the first half of the year that seemed to be the case. In the second half of the year the Raiders trampled all over that storyline on their way to 2nd place. Accolades have been awarded, records broken, combinations and friendships formed. It hasn’t always been easy being green, but it’s definitely the right colour in 2016.
Now to the heavy stuff. There is a 50% chance that by the end of Saturday night Raiders fans will be sitting back, saddened that the campaign is over, and that they will have to either back the Cowboys or the Sharks to avenge them against the Storm.
The Storm are evil rugby league tacticians, parading their boring style of clinically suffocating footy wherever they go. You know they will wrestle, that they’ll concede goal line penalties, that they’ll add a little bit of extra grit to proceedings in the ruck. They will do anything and everything to bend, but not break, the rules of the game.
You can do your part. If your one of the lucky ones at AAMI Park on Saturday night you need to remind the Raiders of your support, and the refs of their culpability.
Then there’s another problem: the one that arises if the Raiders win. We can’t all go to the Grand Final, there’s simply not enough room. For some it’s a matter of finances, for others, a matter of distance. Many will have to go without, but it’ll be ok, because thankfully we still have FTA NRL (even if the audio dribble is provided by Ch9).
For so many years the Storm were the Raiders bogey team, the one that fans dreaded more than any other. They would beat the Raiders at home, and then travel to Canberra and beat them there.
In recent years however, this trend has thankfully been put to bed. The Raiders have claimed thrilling victories at AAMI Park, and the round 23 win at GIO Stadium was possibly the Green Machines best performance of 2016.
Battle of the Big Boppers
Congratulations and commiserations to Clay Priest, who broke his ankle but also picked up the Rookie of the year award at the club awards this week. A commendation for Luke Bateman too, whose stats from the Panthers game don’t accurately reflect his impact, in particular his great try saving tackle.
Big Papa should be energised by his joint Meninga Medal, and as Dan wrote earlier, he truly is in prime form, destroying fringe defences at will.
Paul Vaughan was extremely effective across his 26 minutes, including his powerful mid field line break. As per usual his ability to get down stomach first and rise quickly provided a great platform for quick ruckwork.
Junior Paulo was fantastic – I’ve actually developed a tic where I growl “Juniooor” every time he carries it up. The more Storm clinging to him and tiring themselves out, the better.
The media, as per usual, focused on Whitehead’s mild misdemeanours, and skipped over the fact that he made a whopping 152 metres and 37 tackles, along with facilitating the Leipana try down the right hand side.
Sia – King of defenders. This man is the definition of line speed and consistency. He is great.
Their opponents? Proctor, Bromwich, Harris and Finucane. Players who in any other side would be good, but not great, forwards. Under Bellamy they’re a lethal pack of wrestling robots, driving lone ball carriers backwards or into touch.
I hope Junior runs over one of them.
Your cue, Maestro
Even with a “bionic” hand, Blake Austin managed to sell one of his very theatrical dummies to score the opening try of week 2. You could see at least three Panthers heads rotate towards the sideline, truly believing that that pass would be thrown. It wasn’t.
Sezer was quiet on kicking duties, mainly because Hodgson did all the work from dummy half, but he made up for this by being involved in a lot of running, with good, well timed passes on the set sweeps. He’s still a whole other level below Cronk, but he’ll just have to do the best that he can (Short kicking game!)
Hodgson has had an epic 2016. They should just give him the Dally M now, so he can place it next to his joint Meninga Medal and his Warren Ryan Medal. Then they should name another Canberra suburb after him. His battle against Smith will be Gandalf vs Saruman, Good Arnie Terminator vs the T-1000. I really, really hope he bests Smith in this game, and then somewhere, deep inside, Australia will know it no longer has the best dummy half in the world.
Put your Back(s) into it
They may only have one try and try assist from last week, but what a try it was from Leipana. Pure footy brilliance. They will need to work hard defensively to shut down the try-scoring phenomenon that is Vunivalu.
Croker, as always, is the unheralded champion. Some captains lead by yelling, others lead by doing. Croker has done so much this year, both by improving on his own work and bolstering the performances of those around him. He and Eddy Lee face off against the lethal combo of Blair and Koroibete.
Wighton vs Munster – Canberra’s #1 super son against the guy who makes people think that Billy Slater is already retired. If Munster should make a break, there’s no one you want more holding the last line (arms out Jack, arms out!)
Stuart surely must be neck and neck with Flanagan for coach of the year, if not past him already. Whatever the result of Saturday is, Stuart has delivered in 2016.
Craig Bellamy is the root of all evil (in footy).
I did away with the power of three, as it was no longer enough to cover all the key positions, because now, they are all key. Instead, I’d like to use this space to thank all Raiders fans far and wide. Whether you’re streaming the game on the other side of the globe, or one of the diehards smashing out the Viking Clap at the game, you’ll all get a place in Valhalla.
I plan to spend Saturday night sitting on a chair in a shipping container in East Arnhem Land, my eyes glued to a small tv. It will be a trying evening (Storm games always are) and there will probably be heaps of swearing.
Raiders by 2!