Which is way home for the Raiders?


It was a wet miserable and disappointing night for the Raiders as Souths gave them a lesson in footy physical and smarts I thought. No disgrace to lose to the Rabbits at present as they are on a roll with consistent quality in their very settled squad in their very familiar system.

But I just have to ask some questions of the Raiders as we enter the second half of the season. I reckon they have had enough time in 2013 to show themselves and the rest of us that they have sorted out whatever it was that caused them so many problems in the early part of 2012. But they also finished on such a high, smashing their way into the playoffs confirming that the first half of the season was a problem.

Do they still not know why both of those periods of almost opposite end performance levels happened? Apparently not, because it is, at best, about to be repeated this season. Well in fact they are better placed on the ladder than same time last season but my point is they still are handing in performances like last night’s loss to Souths. It wasn’t that they lost, it was that they didn’t seem to know why it was happening, what to do about it and how to reverse the whole thing; right then and there. At the end I am not sure they could have found their way home they were so lost.

They aren’t the only team by any means who look like this at times in modern day footy. It’s as if someone has decreed that “we have to win the arm wrestle” to win the footy match. Now I know it is great if you can win the arm wrestle and it most often does lead to winning. But what happens if you are losing the arm wrestle as the Raiders were from the very opening shots of the match?

If you can’t fight and the biggest meanest bloke in the room is staring at you it’s probably very brave and might win some credit points with your mates and your girl but walking over and squaring up to him is not the smartest idea in my book. In fact if you have already seen him make mince-meat of a whole heap of dudes bigger and meaner and more capable at fighting than you its down-right dumb.

Much wiser to work out, and then practice, for a different way of sorting out the challenge to be made. Surely there is another way to win rather than try to outdo a team that has a plan A almost perfected. I can think of more than plan A back at them and with the Raiders broad talent base I am sure they can too.

To be really fair to them it was “arm wrestle” weather in Sydney last night. But at some point, behind by   enough and with time running out it became bleeding obvious that more of the same was going to be nowhere near good enough! Smarter kicking and more dummy half running by quicker players repeatedly at Souths big forwards come to mind very quickly.

Personally I thought the issues to be sorted for the Green Machine to return to its awesome best, may have needed the club to sort out off field stuff. But with the events of this season and then watching them live last night I am not so sure.

A real good dose of footy smarts is needed right across the board to light the winning flame consistently again. Talent is not a problem as is obvious by some outstanding performances already. Doing a smarter job of negating opponents and enhancing each other’s talents by working cleverly and consistently together would be a big start.

So would getting Terry Campese to run onto some passes to become that real threat we have seen of him in the past; get his knees dirty more often in some crunching tackles like he is more than capable of; lead them in a very physical way.

My preseason preview for the Raiders:

MYTHS: Not so far back, many feared that Campese’s influence was paramount for Raider success. It took them quite a while but I think that was put to bed at the back end of 2012

ROOKIE TO THE RESCUE: Wow, take your pick here. What a programme and production line the Raiders have. Wighton, Williams, McIlwrick, Lee, Matoroa, Papali, Fenson have all cracked via the junior reps to NRL route at Raiders. And more to come

WHAT CAN STOP THE TRAIN:  Centre of the ruck defence. There is a distinct lack of mobility with too many of the same type at times in their middle men part of the roster. Quick or skilful opponents can rip them too easily on their worst days

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT: Another young team that could really grow with the confidence that comes from winning and knowing why! And with enormous youthful depth it, could be a long term revival when it starts if they find the key

WHAT I REALLY LIKE ABOUT THEM: The momentum they can develop through the variety they can play with, especially in the kicking game aspects. Campese can add to this when he returns.  Look out opposing wingers and fullbacks!

RATING: Let’s see how consistent they are in the first month or so. In the same vein as a few other clubs the poor performance days of this club would be best identified from within. There were too many of them in 2012 leading to erratic form. It may not be identification of the problem, it might be DOING WHATEVER IT TAKES TO REMOVE IT that matters.