CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 20: Joseph Tapine of the Raiders (L) celebrates with Joseph Leilua (R) after scoring a try during the round 24 NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the Penrith Panthers at GIO Stadium on August 20, 2017 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Raiders fans may wonder what happened in 2017. I’m right there with them. I had the Raiders topping the table and launching a genuine title run. How could they not? They were almost unstoppable in 2016 and were a dropped ball away from a Grand Final appearance.

Fast forward to mid 2017 and the mooted top four finish was all but a pipe dream and suddenly even a top eight spot looked a real struggle.

Ricky Stuart gets paid the big bucks and will be expected to right the ship because a squad this talented should not be missing finals two years in a row.

Rapana, Leilua, Wighton, Hodgson, Austin, Sezer, Croker. All weapons! The raiders scored 558 points in 2017. That’s 58 points more than the second placed Roosters. They scored more points that all but two (Broncos and Storm) top eight sides yet still missed the finals by four competition points.

They had six blow up victories and even beat the Roosters, Sharks and Eels (twice).

What happened!?

Recruitment Grading: D

Realistically Canberra haven’t changed much despite a large turn over of players. Charlie Gubb is likely to play plenty of first grade but other than the injury to Hodgson which will bring either Brad Abbey, Siliva Havili or Craig Garvey into contention, all other player movements look like depth signings or losses. Liam Knight has plenty of potential and could be a bolter for a bench position early in the season. Otherwise it looks as though the Raiders are happy with what they’ve got. If the squad plays as it did in 2016 then this will be no problem at all. If performances follow suit from their 2017 efforts, it could be a big problem.

Star Player: Blake Austin

With Josh Hodgson out and Jordan Rapana limited by the amount of ball he sees, Blake Austin is not so much the ‘star player’ but more of a most important player. The 2016 Raiders express dominated on the back of Blake Austin’s performances. In 2017 he was well below par and the Raiders struggled as a result. Although, shockingly, his stats in terms of try assists were better in 2017, no one can honestly say Austin was anywhere near his best last year. In 2016 I was shocked that Austin’s name wasn’t in genuine Origin talks. Last year he was not in the top ten. The 26 year old, who will record his 100th NRL appearance in round one, has all the tools to become Canberra’s main man again. I’d even go so far as to say he can be a genuine superstar of the competition. The Raiders are so reliant on their halves that Austin and Sezer really have no choice but to find form early or it could be a long season.

Strength: Unrivaled attacking ability

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Last year’s rookie of the season Nick Cotric rounds out one of the game’s most impressive back lines, certainly point scoring wise. Wighton, Rapana, Leilua, Croker and Cotric are unrivaled when it comes to back line potency. All are proven try scorers and in Croker’s case, prolific point scorer. Throw in Sezer, Austin, and the likes of Whitehead up front and the Raiders will not struggle for points in 2018. As mentioned earlier they outscored all but the Broncos and Storm in 2017, and I’d argue that they were well under par. That’s scary. The problem has been that the Raiders will put 60 on a side, then turn in two less than attractive games in the following weeks. If they can find the key to unlocking those point scoring blitzes across multiple games, watch out.

Weakness: Way too inconsistent

On their day Canberra can put 40 on any side in the competition. Unfortunately for fans in lime green, those days come too few and far in between. In 2017 the Raiders beat the high flying Roosters then lost the next four games in a row. Their biggest wins were against the Tigers, Titans, Knights and Warriors, the bottom four sides. That is all well and good but unless you can consistently beat the mid to high rated sides, finals footy is a long shot at best. This side beat the Eels twice, so the talent is there. This is also a side that lost to the Dogs and Knights in succession. The inconsistency is there.

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Prediction: 12th

I almost talked myself into moving the Green Machine much higher when thinking about the attacking weapons on hand. That said, I just can’t see the Canberra pack stacking up consistently against the more fancied sides such as the Cowboys, Storm and Roosters.

Huge question marks hang over the head of both Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer, who despite all the talent in the world, just haven’t been able to find that extra gear. Their job won’t be made any easier by the long-term injury to Josh Hodgson. His running game is excellent and his ability to provide quick ball to the halves invaluable.

I always struggle to write this side off. There is SO MUCH there to like. Cotric is one of the game’s best youngsters and could push for Origin sooner than later. Rapana is probably the most entertaining winger in the game. Boyd is a monster. Tapine is set for a career best year, mark down this statement.

It’s not that Canberra are overly bad, I just don’t think there’s as good as other sides. They’re going to score plenty of points, but the defensive side of their game hasn’t been up to scratch. They bettered the defensive record of only six sides last year. Only one of those six, Manly, finished outside the bottom five in 2017.

This is one of those ‘hedge your bets’ statements, but I wouldn’t mind being wrong here. I enjoy watching the Raiders play. As long as their not running up a cricket score against my side, there are fewer sides more enjoyable to watch.

That said, I just can’t see them putting enough of those special displays on to qualify for finals. Ricky Stuart has a monster year ahead of him.

57 COMMENTS

  1. Raiders I think are suffering from a lack of strong combos across the board, while some combos like Leipana are strong the key ones are not. Sezer is struggling big time at the raiders ever since he arrived and Austin has dropped down a teir also in recent season. Coupled with the fact Wighton isnt a fullback I think they will continue to struggle this year, especially with Hodgson gone for a little while.

    My Raiders preview
    Best player: Cotric
    Best buy: Garvey
    Finish: 14th

    • Would you say he’s dropped off the planet ? I didn’t think that could happen after a stellar 2016 ? Your words scoop !

      • Geez you really like picking on Holmsey do you chump, you say Holmsey has no clue yet you rate Taylor and Sezer in front of DCE.

      • I just want to go about my business on Zero tackle but this bloke will not go away, do me a favour MW47 just leave me alone. You and your friend are the ones causing all the fights here. I moved on yet you and yiur friend keep coming back at me.

      • Manly for life , you can’t expect your statements on an open Rugby League forum to go unchallenged, Holmsey makes some outrageous statements and when you challenge them without insults he is unable to provide any response that is logical , of substance or reflective of there understanding of the game , this forum allows everyone to make statements then deliver intelligent arguments backing them , if you go through and read the responses to Holmsey posts by Holmsey you will come to the conclusion that he is either , illiterate in the game of Rugby League , ignorant , arrogant , abusive or just plain immature and not old enough to articulate himself especially to those who have been watching the game longer than he’s been alive , I’m not the only one who questions him , he is a sook

  2. 1. Wighton
    2. Cotric
    3. Crocker
    4. Leilua
    5. Rapana
    6. Williams
    7. Sezer
    8. Boyd
    9. Austin
    10. Jr Paulo
    11. Pappali
    12. Whitehead
    13. Bateman

    14. Garvey/Havilli
    15. Gubb
    16. Tapine
    17. Soliola

    For me I’d suggest moving Blake Austin into Hooker and bringing Sam Williams in at Five-Eight. Gets Austins hands on the ball a lot more and can be seen as a fresh start plus I doesn’t throw a young new signing into a very difficult position.

  3. The Raiders are so frustrating and i think that goes down to Stuart.I dont think he can coach and he seems constantly frustrated and out of his depth once things dont go his way.Cant be a good.I know most coaches are highly strung but Stuart seems he is loosing the plot to often……what do you think MW47??

    • Stuart did things in his playing days that NO half has been able to duplicate, his hooker was able to deliver him crisp clean accurate passing which allowed Ricky to take advantage of his superior long passing abilities giving his backs the overlap basically every time he selected to play his hand , add to that a star studded side and his skills where very evident
      As a coach I don’t believe he is a leader of men, I know we change as we grow but I will say this , in my line of work I had many experiences with Ricky and many other footballers and I will say that he was immature and definitely did not possess leadership qualities, a measure of a coach can be seen in there players , BJ ! Il leave it at that

      • So glad to have your input so i nolonger have to read all the comments.As we all know yours is the right one and only of importance

        • ParraMatt the ambush tactic is more a signature move of a bird or prey like a Sea Eagle is it not? Shouldn’t this be beneath an Eel? But then Eels have always favoured the surprise attack strategy so it is starting to make sense. I notice that there was a certain fledgling seagull that tends to make a lot of noise that would have also taken the bait but they were not your “target species” and spared the embarrassment on this occasion. They too believe that they are always right and have the only opinion of any importance so you were being very selective in your choice then.

          You were right though, fledgling seagulls are easily startled and prone to fits of temperament and once provoked and cornered they create a tremendous ruckus and tend to disappear for lengthy periods before returning to renew the same cycle all over again. Sadly not all seagulls make it to maturity which is when they become Sea Eagles and no longer need to hide in the shadows. If only they realised that it is the very noise and ruckus that they create that make them targets of larger birds of prey then they might stand a better chance of survival. So perhaps it was the conservationist in you that guided your choice rather than any actual prejudice or malice? It must have been MW47’s spoon fetish that tipped the scales then.

          So would “Parras Grand Finals during the 80s” have included 1981, 1982 and 1983? That was vintage Parramatta and yes I did cheer for the Eels in every one of those GF’s! If I’m honest every supporter of every rival club did the same! Bahahahahahahahahahahaha

          Manly fans just love their little fortress and their “insular peninsula”. At least the Eels can boast a better stadium with 21st century facilities! Does “Lottoland” still have an old manual scoreboard or have they turned that into a giant slot machine now. LOL

        • “gold plated cutlery draw”. Yeah, that’d be right, all show, and looks classy / sophisticated etc at first glance, but scratch the surface and there’s nothing of substance.

        • Other than 4 premierships, 3 in a row, over the last 40 years, but point taken over the last 30. That said, we’ve never tried to “gold plate” ourselves.

          We didn’t see the need and/or have the political influence to call ourselves / our region “Manly” to disguise the Chardonnay swilling, caviar on croissants, cafe latte (decaf, skim milk of course) lifestyle.

      • Wrong ParraMatt my opinion is just that , you can challenge it if you like , I won’t call you stupid or a dog or go crying , you lined me up good but that’s ok , sly way of getting your point across , now tell me , what’s it like supporting a side that has 13 spoons ? Have you ever seen them win a GF in your life time ? Maybe your 15 like your hand maiden

        • lol,so you go back to talking about spoons.Dont you get bored with it?Not to worry.As for my age well i was at all Parras Grand Finals during the 80s(spent most the time on my dads shoulders or on milk crates) on the hill at the SCG so that would give you an idea on my vintage.Plus im also old enough to know that Manly has won more but really?Manly brought there comps always have.They were lucky there was no salary cap for so long.So as for your remarks about spoons i find it rather amusing.Maybe if you were a Saints or Souths fan id pay a little more attention

        • The spoons is a thorn you can’t remove ! It’s buried deep and held in with 13 barbs,😂
          Sharing those special moments with your ole man and an unstoppable Parra of the 80’s was very generous, they were great times for Parra fans , I never had that pleasure, lost my ole man at a young age so I really envy you , don’t ever take my posts personally, I do however enjoy a good jibe and quality debate

        • Its all in good fun.Why this site is so good.We all can have an opinion and a bit off banter but at the end of the day we all love the same thing….

        • Who would have thought, a Parra supporter and a Manly supporter having a little ding dong?

          Of course the Parra supporter is right, but in fairness the Manly supporter can’t even “play nice” with his own kind.

        • No mighty. Not you and the “angry eagle” having a set-to. I was referring to ParraMatt’s comment:

          ParraMatt January 24, 2018 at 9:07 pm
          “We all can have an opinion and a bit off banter but at the end of the day we all love the same thing….”

          SSTID_1970 January 24, 2018 at 9:38 pm
          Fighting! LOL

          Oh Ned! You walked through my punchline again. It IS Groundhog Day after all. 😉

        • SSTID, tap your sarcasm detector to see if it is still operational.

          I know you were referring to ParraMatt and MW, but I was throwing in a little tongue and cheek comment.

        • But mighty you take everything so literally it makes things difficult and things can get lost in translation. You DO realise that when something is “tongue in cheek” you don’t actually have to stick your tongue in your cheek to say it right? It can be very hard to understand your “tongue in cheek” comments sometimes mighty. LOL

        • But in fairness I did premise it with “Who would have thought, a Parra supporter and a Manly supporter having a little ding dong?”

        • I’m flattered. You’ve got the worlds most expensive hooker (DCE), and you want to take me to the prom.

        • Mighty would you say the most influential player of the last ten years is Cam Smith? Now remind me
          What position does Cam play ?
          Would you say he’s worth more $$$ than DCE ?

        • Smith would certainly be 1 of them, and yes, I think he’s worth more, a lot more, than DCE.

          This is what makes it so much fun. You have DCE, and costing you a bucket load of coin. I’m not even against your “suggestion” of moving him to hooker, which would make him the worlds most expensive hooker.

          He’s your captain, most expensive player, and he frustrates you, so as a Parra fan I think he’s awesome.

      • Ricky Stuart won a lower grade Premiership with the Dogs, then the “Don” signed him at the Roosters and guess what ParraMatt and your off sider MW47, Stuart is a leader of men and certainly knows how to coach. He won a Premiership in 2002, a World Club Challenge 2003 a Minor Premiership 2004 all at the Roosters also he was picked to coach NSW & Australia. He also coached Cronulla to one game short of a grand Final and recently Canberra one game short of a grand final in 2016. Don’t get mixed up when a person has a competitive streak or passion in them. Any decent coach hate losing and spits the dummy. Souths Coach ex coach is a classic of recent times. But he won a premiership. I rest my case. Verdict. Guilty of being a top coach.

        • I forgot to state these facts also runner up coach in 2003 and 2004. Which means in his first four years as a coach he got four grand final appearances.
          2001 Bulldogs’ Jersey Flegg team Premiers
          2002 Roosters First Grade Premiers
          2003 Roosters runner ups
          2004 Roosters runner ups

          Not bad for a bloke accused of not being able to coach or be a leader.😁

        • Woodchook he was sacked following his attack of a referee, that’s not leadership, he’s been handed very talented sides and succeeded, however that will never happen whilst he’s at Canberra, like I said just look at how il diciplaned his side is , furthermore what he did whilst at Parra was not leadership standard

        • ParraMatt the Bulldogs lower grade were no names and he turned them into champions, the following year the Don Politis got Stuart to fine tune a stack of Rooster rookies and inexperienced players like Minichiello, Hegarty, Flannery, Crocker, Lomu, Hodges and Wing who he had to play the entire season in the halfback role due to the fact the Roosters first choice half Green broke his leg or stuffed his knee in the first game of the year. That’s seven young rookies/inexperienced that he had to mold and under his watch 5 of those players went onto represent their country. the Roosters got knocked out in the first week of the 2001 season but when Ricky arrived in 2002 he installed defence like you couldn’t believe. It is fair to say in that first year only Phil Gould was his Coaching Director. It was an advisory role by the Genius Gould but it came down to Stuart making his own choices. Any one couldn’t coach that side. The Roosters had not won a premiership for 27yrs until this bloke arrived and by the way ParraMatt, at the start of 2002 season the Roosters had only three international rep players so it was not stacked up like those Brisbane side’s. Those players who had represented Australia were Mullins but he was playing his last season and his first for the Roosters, Fittler and an Englishman Morley the other players who went on to represent their country had not done so at this stage. So Stuart did what was not heard of before. Coach a side to a premiership with three major rep players only. Please explain how anyone could of coached that side please. 👂

        • @ WoodChook

          The Roosters premiership in 2002? You mean the one where Phil Gould mentored Stuart and coached the team from the shadows? THAT premiership?

          “Any decent coach hate losing and spits the dummy. Souths Coach ex coach is a classic of recent times.”

          You aren’t referring to “meek and mild Madge” are you? He was about the ONLY coach who refused to bag the referees or complain about bad decisions publicly preferring instead to “go through the proper channels” (much good it did him). In the end he let the frustration boil over a “smidgen” but that wouldn’t have blown the froth of your latte! Surely you jest?

        • MW47 When did he get sacked for attacking a ref? He is a real leader because anyone that knows anything about League must know that the refereeing standard is pathetic. You only have to take your mind back to this years semis, and the first week in particular. So what Ricky does is blow the crap out of the refs and cops a massive fine out of his own pocket. That’s leadership sticking up for what is right for his players sake at no concern to his own finances. What he did at Parra was guts and leadership. He sacked half the players who under performed while he was in rebuild mode. However He was never going to knock back an offer to coach at his home district when the offer came. Home is where the heart is. He went home and was extremely unlucky not to win a premiership in 2016. They went down by two points to both grand finalists and where robbed against one of those sides by a dodgy ref call. Mate he is the type of bloke that stands up to the truth regardless of the consequences. His the type of Aussie that if a war breaks out, you want him next to you on the battle field.

        • SSTID_1970 Sorry Mate, the South’s players were always getting blasted by his outrages. even when they won. He was more cranky than the original cranky Frank Stanton. I’m in the reception office at the nursing home and I see a big heavy chick coming to drag me off to bed, so I will depar

        • It’s a bit rough of Nurse Ratched not to let you finish your sentence. She could have at least let you finish your “T” WoodChook. “It’s a Madhouse! A MADHOUSE!!!”

          I hope at least she has warm hands. You don’t want to get frost bite when she applies the catheter! LOL 😉

        • Sorry Woodchook, but Ricky attacks the refs do deflect blame from himself and his players. Sure, the refereeing in general is poor, but the play of the Raiders has been just as bad the last couple of years, he is blame shifting, nothing more.

          As for what he did at Parra, yes he cleaned out the dead wood, which I am thankful for. But the way he did it, the whole overhead projector with all players and staff present, showed a real lack of leadership. A true leader would have had the courage to pull the individuals aside and have a frank discussion with them.

          And your discussion on his history at teams says everything you need to know about him. He generally has some success, but cannot sustain it. I don’t know if it is his personality, his intensity or what it is, but he can’t seem to keep his players up for sustained periods.

  4. ‘Boyd, Leilua down on the sofa.’
    ‘She sure has a Whitehead.’ said Boyd puzzled.
    ‘Soliola poisoning can Wighton a head like that…
    Sezer before she falls. Get a Pappali leaf from near Tapine tree out back.
    And don’t be so Gubb, Lua won’t be a Crocker,
    those leaves have Cotric acid in them’

    • ‘Can you boil Havilli…and make a cup of tea for Lua?
      ‘And get her a Rapana.’

      ‘A what?’

      ‘A ripe bannana’

      ‘Oh, OK?’

      • Oh Rabbits, you’ve been nibbling on those 3 leafed plants with the spikey edges again haven’t you? They aren’t lettuce Rabbits, I keep telling you. Lie-down and rest until the disorientation and confusion subsides. Here have a carrot Rabbits. Now relax and breathe.

  5. Love Rickys passion, they were running on adrenilin in 2016 and it was great to watch.
    Good luck green machine 2018 !

    • 2 years is a long time in Rugby League “Big Boy” remember that. A lot can change in that time (including the red hot form of Hodgson that helped to make the Raiders a force to contend with in 2016). It just goes to show how important it is for a hooker and dummy half to provide quick, reliable, quality service I suppose.

      Passion can be a double edge sword though if there isn’t control or rationality behind it. Remember “Jack the Ripper” had PASSION and he caused a lot of damage. “Sticky” certainly has passion but both he and his team lack discipline (Leilua in particular) and they will need to get that under control and find a reliable substitute for Hodgson by the start of the season if the Raiders are to stand any chance. They certainly have the team to do it. Still not sure about the coach though. The jury is still out on that one.

      • You can call me fatkid. Thanks for your insight. Rapana and JoshH really impressed me last season.

        • I have to confess “Big Boy” put a smile on my face. It’s sad to think of all the punchlines that will be missed now. When you grow up I will call you “The Big Marn” but for now “fatkid” it is even if the “PC Police” on this site will take me to task for vilifying you and call me a weightist! So are you the “fatkidfromheydad”?

  6. nrl ladder prediction:

    1 cowboys
    2 panthers
    3 roosters
    4 storm
    5 dragons
    6 broncos
    7 eels
    8 manly
    9 sharks
    10 knights
    11 tigers
    12 warriors
    13 raiders
    14 bulldogs
    15 Rabbitohs
    16 titans

    • OK I’ll bite… The Rabbitohs will NOT finish below the Dogs, the Tigers, the Warriors, the Titans or the Dragons in 2018 IMO.They should be in amongst the pack with the Knights, the Raiders, the Sharks and the Sea Eagles with the Eels and the Broncos just ahead and the Storm, the Cowboys, the Panthers and the Roosters leading the table.

  7. This year’s looking bleak. Austin & sezer definetly the weak link in the team and if wighton dosent fire early I’d switch him and cotric. Chuck tapine in at lock and put austin on the bench as impact. Can’t see them making the 8.

    1. Cotric
    2.wighton
    3.croker
    4.leilua
    5.rapana
    6.williams
    7.sezer
    8.paulo
    9.Hodgson/Havilii
    10.boyd
    11.Papalli
    12.whitehead
    13.tapine

    14.austin
    15.gubb
    16.Bateman
    17.soliola

  8. At the end of the day if you cant get Hodson on board due to injury i think that there will be some issues at the beginning of the season.
    Havilli / Garvey are not a bad option but no where near Josh in terms of the passing speed. The rest of the team have played together for a couple of seasons so they should gel better for it this year.
    I still stand by coaches bleed team colours and all be it Sticky has had his critics i dont see any other coach for the job.

  9. I see the greatest problem for Canberra being their halves. Sezer has not lived up to his supposed ‘potential’, and Austin did not look interested enough last year. In 2016, Austin was enjoying his football and it showed on the field. He was having fun playing ‘park football” – play what is in front of you and throw the ball around. Hodgson will be a huge loss, but if the other Raiders players fire up, they have the cattle to make a run at the eight.

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