We’ve abandoned the usual format at the Rumble this week, as dire situations call for extreme measures. If the alarm bells weren’t ringing after the Bulldogs fiasco then they were definitely cranked up to eleven after the woeful display of insipid football against the Knights.
I’ve done away with the segments focussing on the spine, forwards and backs as the problems with the team are now clearly at the feet of certain players (and one coach) who are either in a bad place form wise or are simply indifferent to the Raiders current woes.
As such, you’re about to join me on a rant as I identify problems and put forward solutions, some of which you may or may not agree with. The main thing we can all agree on is that the current style and structure is not working, to the detriment of the team and fans.
The NRL, like all modern sports, is an arms race. If you come in carrying last year’s plays and plans you’ll find that the rest of the league has moved on. Every team is on a constant path of evolution – for teams like Melbourne it is almost indiscernible, whereas teams like the Knights move forward in leaps and bounds.
The Raiders first crime of 2017 was not updating themselves in any significant way. Flush with the success of 2016 and a bountiful off season for rep stars they brushed away issues like Baptistes Achilles injury with minor concern. The loss to the Knights in the pre-season trial was waved away as an abnormality for a team supposedly cruising into this season.
Clearly the majority of the other 15 teams spent their off-seasons studying the Raiders in both attack and defence. Ironically the Knights have been possibly the best at implementing this so far, identifying Hodgson as the crux of the Raiders attack and shutting him down on three separate occasions inside their 20. Several other teams have also zeroed in on the weak defensive linkages between Austin/Leilua and Sezer/Croker.
Hodgson clearly needs a break. At the moment the Raiders seem to be suffering from “Too Many Chefs” syndrome, with Hodgson’s potential casting a shadow over the input from Austin and Sezer. There are two ways this can be overcome – Make Clydsdale the starting 9 or wait for the return of Baptiste, currently making his way up through NSWCUP.
Stop yelling, calm down and let me explain the Clydsdale option – yes, Clydsdale is slower than Hodgo at distributing the ball. Yes, he is much less creative and very much below Hodgo in kicking skills. But what the Raiders need right now is a dummy half who will either pass the ball or run it, and do nothing else. Hodgson needs a break so that he can step back from the footy being played and see what it looks like from the outside. Start him from the bench, and let him play the last 15-10 minutes of each half.
Speaking of playmakers, we need to address the halves dilemma. Something has gone seriously wrong in the halves, and to be honest, it seems to mostly be happening on Austin’s side. For whatever reason the momentum and timing isn’t happening, with bizarre set-ending plays being forced one or two tackles early. While Austin is valuable for his big kicking gains (especially in penalties/dropouts) his current form is hurting the side. With reports of Jordan Turner constantly putting in solid performances for Mounties the question must be asked as to why Ricky has chosen not to run Turner alongside Sezer for a week or two and see how it pans out.
Then there’s the playmakers who aren’t – Junior Paulo. I get that Paulo is a big guy capable of an offload and the occasional soft hand touch but his passing against the Knights was a straight up parody of his halves pairing. On at least two plays he positioned himself like the big kid dominating an Under11’s game and either threw the ball out past Rapana or put it down. Paulo is proving to be one of the better forwards in terms of current meterage (which really isn’t saying much), he just needs to stick to his job description and do it.
Yeah, you didn’t think I wouldn’t mention the forwards, right? In particular that awful combo of Bateman and Priest? The last time either Priest or Bateman cracked triple figures was all the way back in round 5, against the Eels, when Priest notched 136 metres off 13 runs while playing at lock. Ever since then they’ve been serving up some of the worst bench support you could imagine and it’s driving me insane. When they’re not dropping the ball, conceding penalties, being injured or doing other dumb things they’re leaving gaps in defence and making runs so underpowered they could be driven back by an SGball side.
Stop smirking over there backline. While you may not be as scapegoat-able as your peers you need to realise that your success is bound to theirs. First things first, stop going right! Everyone in the NRL kows you’re going right, so here’s a freaking idea – go left. You know those two other guys, the captain that improves himself every year and the 18 year old is amazingly good at this game in both attack and defence? Let’s find out what they can do when given the ball.
In summary I’d like to see the following:
- The resurrection of Bappers and more intelligent use of Clydsdale.
- The promotion of Turner (or L.Croker) for research purposes as to whether or not the Raiders actually have other halves options.
- A promise by Paulo that he will not be wearing the 7 or 6 in his head.
- The demotion of Priest and Bateman, to be replaced by anyone who can do their jobs at a higher and more consistent level.
I know y’all came here looking for a Rumble, and instead you got this rant, but you’ll just have to deal with it this week.
Raiders by 2
(Maybe, if they actually football right and don’t serve up the abhorrent crap that we’ve been forced to watch the last 3 rounds)