Predicted Finish: 1st
Actual Finish: 10th
Best Performer: Jordan Rapana
I admit I considered Rapana’s 2017 season to be have been a little bit of a letdown. Looking at his stats I feel as though they may be more than a touch harsh after his 20 tries and 24 line breaks in 22 games of NRL football. I think his quiet games stand out more in my mind than his brilliant games, such is the level of performance we now expect from the Kiwi superstar. Five times during the season he managed to cross the line at least twice. Making almost 150 metres per game and with almost a try a game average, Rapana was immense. I’m not really sure what more he could have done.
Season Highlight: Beating the Eels twice
The Raiders showed signs of the side we thought they would be in their two wins over the top-four finishing Parramatta Eels. A 30-18 win in Canberra in round five was the first real sign that the Canberra beast may have awoken for 2017 after a routine 40 point win over the hapless Tigers failed to really inspire. A 22-16 win in round 11 was possibly even more impressive as Canberra collected the points in front of Parra’s own fans. A 62-34 aggregate over two games against a side who would ultimately venture into the second week of the finals should have been the summation of the Raiders season, not the exception.
Best Signing: Siliva Havili
Just a few weeks ago Havili would not have been in the Raiders sights, but with a very serious, long-term injury to Josh Hodgson suffered in the World Cup, Havili suddenly becomes super important for the club. After a brilliant World Cup campaign himself, Havili has probably seen his stocks rise enough to expect the first crack at the Raiders number nine jersey in the Englishman’s absence. The former Kiwi hooker played 10 times for the Dragons in 2017 but can expect to see that workload double in the new year for his new club. He will need to be at his very best from day one though in order to cover for the man he is replacing.
Nick Cotric: The Raiders may have missed finals footy but they uncovered a genuine future superstar in young Nick Cotric. The 19 year-old won the rookie of the year award for this year after scoring 16 tries in his debut season. Throw in 17 line breaks and 2500+ metres and that is one impressive season for any winger, let alone someone playing their first year in the top grade. There are genuine talks of a NSW debut in 2018 although the Raiders will simply be looking for a repeat on his 2017 efforts.
Joseph Tapine: Tapine has matured from a bit part bench player into a genuine star for both club and country. He was arguably New Zealand’s best during their disappointing World Cup campaign, and had a big year for the Raiders also. His numbers weren’t massive but his output toward the end of the season was very good. At only 23 years of age his best days are surely ahead of him. Considering what he was able to do with minimal early opportunities in the capital, that is scary. Expect huge things next year.
The season is over: This sounds like a cop out of sorts but the Raiders just needed the 2017 season to end so they could lock it away marked never to repeat. I’m genuinely shocked at the fact the Raiders didn’t challenge for the title this year. I had them picked to finish first. I only saw improvement from last season, where truthfully they should have played in the Grand Final. Instead we had under par performances become the norm, with the odd world beating effort thrown in. Yuk! 2018 can’t come quickly enough for those wearing lime green.
Season Grading: F
After an incredible 2016 season, much was expected from the Green Machine. Given they were one dropped pass short of a Grand Final appearance, it was not out of the question that Canberra would go all the way in 2017. A top-four spot was almost a certainty.
Except they didn’t go all the way. They didn’t make the top four. They missed out on finals footy altogether.
Despite a largely unchanged side across the off-season, Canberra started very slowly and never really recovered. They were smashed 44-0 by Newcastle in their lone trial game, then won only one of their first four fixtures. Although they had a tough draw across the opening month, any side with genuine title aspirations should welcome the challenge. The Raiders didn’t.
They were able to beat the Sharks in the Shire, as well as beat top-four finishers the Eels and Roosters in consecutive weeks, but ultimately they just failed to fire across the regular season.
There were no real excuses either. Both Austin and Sezer each played 23 games. Wighton, Rapana, Leilua and Croker played 22, 22, 23 and 21 respectively. They uncovered a future star in Nick Cotric. Hodgson missed minimal game time.
I honestly don’t know what went wrong, but something sure changed between September 2016 and early March 2017. Whatever it was, Ricky Stuart and co need to get it sorted or face wasting a golden opportunity to create something special in the capital. It certainly didn’t happen in 2017.