Predicting 2019: NRL.com and the search for conversation

BY DAN

NRL.com recently put out it’s predicted round one lineup for the Canberra Raiders 2019 season. You might wonder why that esteemed website went down this pathway a good two months (more?) from the start of the season.

The Raiders have already lost two players for the first half of 2019 since the end of 2018. It’s not ridiculous to think they might suffer further misfortune through the pre-season and trial matches.

*knocks on all the wood*

In short these predictions are probably a bit pointless.

Of course NRL.com has gone down this pathway because, frankly, we’re all too focused on some mixture of cricket, sun, beach, ham and beer. (For me it’s 1 and 4, with smatterings of the last one, but only because my six-month old doesn’t believe in sleep). There’s not much else to write about in the rugby league world (unless you have a good theory as to why league players insist of posting precisely two types of Christmas pics on social media: them topless, or with their family all in the same outfit).

Lineups are a quick and easy way to drag some eyeballs to your website when they may otherwise be focused elsewhere. You don’t really have to justify your decision or base it on anything more than a feeling. Chuck in a few eyebrow raising choices (see for example: Sutton, Ryan) and you’ll probably raise the blood pressure of a few people enough to engender some discussion.

This is because lineups are like rugby league fan fiction. Everyone has one position switch they think will be the change that will allow their team to rise to the top. Most of these have more holes than my resolve in the face of more ham. A favourite of Raiders’ fans is that Jarrod Croker should be a winger. I can see Tigers’ fans putting Moses Mybe in every position in the spine. I’m sure the every Broncos fan has a different way they want to include (or not) Jack Bird.

Sidebar: There’s a bunch of reasons Croker isn’t a winger. For starters he’s never played wing. In attack this wastes his good hands, and would require him to develop those fancy finishing skills most modern wingers have. In defence it would put him at a disadvantage as he tries to keep taller wingers away from bombs. But most of all it would ruin one of the Raiders few elite skills. The Raiders use the size of their wingers to do the yardage work coming off their own line. It’s one of the areas of the Canberra side that is elite. I’m not saying Croker can’t do this, just that he could never do it as well as Cotric or Rapana.

But even as I write these words I have the urge to argue about lineups (as you can see above). Us rugby league fans can’t help it. We see a list of 17 players and we simply have to write down our version. No one really reads another persons line up. We just ready our retort to outline an equally hypothetical scenario that, similarly to what we’re arguing against, is about as likely to occur as me not eating ham (I kid you not I am keen for ham).

Sidebar: For the record I don’t see why Sutton gets a starting position but Guler isn’t in the 17. I think Whitehead will play 13, English Bateman 12 and Papa as a prop. Williams seems a certainty to start at 6. But then again, this all depends on how people perform in trials, whether or not they get injured, how the new Englishmen’s fitness compares….it’s all so pointless but I am so here for it.

And so NRL.com chucks this up and we all gobble it up like I do ha…you know what I mean. It drives page views for NRL.com, it drives a bit of a rant out of me. Everyone’s a winner.

I’m not going to hate on that. Gotta give the people what they want, after all. More importantly, these pointless arguments drive the clicks and therefore advertising dollars which mean journalists get paid. The more journalists get paid the more likely the Raiders will get the coverage they deserve rather than the often cursory approach taken by much of the media.

So in the end this ultimately frivolous exercise is good thing. Sounds very rugby league to me.

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