With the NRL taking a week off due to the increasingly irrelevant representative round we thought it would be a good time to assess the Raiders season so far, and then give them a grade.
Which means first we must construct a grading system for the league itself. As we all know grades of the alphabetical kind range from A down to F (if you’re scoring a G then you’re probably dead), which gives us six tiers to apply to the ladder.
6 does not go into 16 very well, so we’re going to have to tinker a bit. To be in the top four is a pretty nifty achievement, so we’ll make 1st and 2nd A grade, with 3rd and 4th B grade. After that we have four grades and 12 teams, which goes quite nicely – 5th, 6th and 7th are all C grade, 8th, 9th and 10th are all D grade, 11th, 12th and 13th are all E grade and 14th, 15th and 16th are all F grade, with an urgent note home to their parents.
The Raiders currently sit 10th on the ladder, which is the lowest of the D grade, effectively making them a D minus. Being the diligent markers that we are, we now must show our workings to be correct.
The Raiders have managed to win 4 of their 9 games so far, which gives them a win percentage of 44.44444 (it’s 4’s all the way into infinity folks), which is not crash hot. League leaders Melbourne, by comparison have a win percentage of 88.88888.
It’s not all bad news on the win/loss front for the Green Machine – off their five losses only one of them has been by a margin greater than 6 points, the round 2 loss to the Sharks.
The Raiders came achingly close to stealing a win via some tough scrambling defence and despite low possession, beaten only by a freak kick and Cooper’s situational awareness. Final score 20-16.
The Raiders got an early reality check when the reigning premiers walloped them in front a strong turnout at GIO Stadium. Final score 42-16.
The Raiders finally got things rolling, and took out their frustrations from round 2 on a woeful Tigers side, which would ultimately lead to the dismissal of Jason Taylor. Final score 46-6.
The Raiders went down to the wire against the Broncos, missing out on the two points due to a field goal. Final score 13-12.
The Raiders bounced back and held off the Eels to come away with the two points. Final score 30-18.
The Raiders took full advantage of an injury weary Titans outfit to record another healthy winning margin. Final score 42-16.
The Raiders went toe to toe with the Warriors in a low scoring wrestle at GIO Stadium. Final score 20-8.
The Raiders let the Eagles in and then gave them a shot at goal in golden point, leading to heartbreak for the Raiders faithful. Final score 20-18.
By far the Raiders worst performance of the year. A lacklustre Green Machine had no answers for the Doggies at ANZ, and lost by a flatteringly small margin. Final score 16-10.
Room for improvement? Of course. Perhaps the most frustrating thing for Raiders fans is that whatever things were learnt in the back half of 2016 seem to have mostly been forgotten during the summer. While the halves are arguably better individual players than last year they’re currently missing the same side cohesion that made oppositions overthink their defensive choices. There have been glimpses of the Raiders effective sweep this year, but they’ve come in between bouts of muddled play and poor direction.
The forwards too need to reassess what they’re doing up front – too many times they’ve found themselves driven back or turned sideways. With big wrecking balls along the lines of Boyd and Paulo they should be punching holes behind the ruck, causing tired defenders to turn in on themselves and double their workload.
And if the forwards get a spray then so too does the bench and the coaching staff. The current bench setup is not working. Joe Tapine may be worth every dollar and more but he is still only one man. When Stuart chose to release Vaughan and Fensom he made a choice, and he must now show fans that he has a solution to the bench units chronic lack of ability to make metres.
The backs are doing the best that they can, but for the most part are being stifled by the lack of forward momentum. The Raiders successes in 2016 were built off the back of the forwards laying down a quick platform, one sorely lacking so far this year. If the Raiders can get that happening, then expect the likes of Cotric (What a revelation!) and co to start making gold out wide.
On paper the Canberra Raiders are talented and skillful team – they just need to show their work on the field and apply themselves.