John Bateman (Wigan Warriors, 2024), JJ Collins (Newcastle Knights, 2020), Andre Niko (2019), Brendan O’Hagan (2019), Kyle Paterson (2019), Bailey Simonsson (2019), Ryan Sutton (Wigan Warriors, 2020), Hudson Young (2019)
Blake Austin (Warrington Wolves), Shannon Boyd (Gold Coast Titans), Masivesi Dakuwaqa (released), Craig Garvey (released), Charlie Gubb (Widnes Vikings), Liam Knight (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Junior Paulo (Parramatta Eels), Mikaele Ravalawa (St George Illawarra Dragons)
Depending on the day the Raiders were either almost untouchable or utterly awful. Sometimes they were both within the same game, or even the same half.
I literally lost count of the number of games the Raiders played for 50/60 minutes then fell away to lose. I honestly believe if the games were only 60 minutes they would have finished top four.
In the end, they missed the finals by a long way. Josh Hodgson did miss a large chunk of the season and they did improve big time upon his return but at no point in the season did the Raiders look like a side who could win the title.
Jordan Rapana’s long-term injury suffered playing for the New Zealand national side rounded off a disappointing 2018 for the Green Machine.
For all the stick Ricky Stuart cops, I believe he has made a good move by moving on big money forwards Boyd and Paulo, replacing them with players capable of much bigger minutes and value.
Best Recruit: John Bateman
Ricky Stuart has gone back to the English Super League to replace the departed Boyd and Paulo. Joining the likes of Whiteman and Hodgson are Wigan premiership winning forwards Ryan Sutton and John Bateman.
Bateman looks a brilliant pick up, with the 25-year-old lock/second rower and even centre supposedly the target of a multi-team chase for his signature.
His efforts for Wigan were such that he was shortlisted for the Man of Steel Award, the Super League equivalent of the Dally M medal.
Given the strength of the Raiders pack, it is likely he will start the season from the bench but I have no doubt in the world he will play a big part in the nation’s capital for 2019.
Star Player: Josh Hodgson
The English superstar made a huge difference to his team’s performances and results upon his return in later 2018. To say they missed him early on is a massive understatement.
Hodgson is a top three number nine across the competition and absolutely key to the Raiders chances of a finals footy charge this season.
With Wighton likely to join Sezer in the halves, the Raiders will need their superstar number nine at the very top of his game to create try-scoring opportunities.
In terms of importance to his team’s results moving forward, the Raiders number nine could very well be the most important player in the competition right now.
Young Gun/One To Watch: Brad Abbey
I have a feeling that 2019 will be 22-year-old Brad Abbey’s season. With Jordan Rapana out for the opening months of the competition and Jack Wighton supposedly shifting into the halves, Abbey will see plenty of first-gradee action this year.
Whether it is Abbey or Cotric in the number one, I expect his name there somewhere come round one.
A star of the Intrust Super Cup (NSW Cup) quite frankly he is far too good to be playing reserve grade.
He starred at fullback for the Mountain but has played plenty of wing also. Most of his 13 NRL appearances to date have come in the outside backs.
Abbey is a creative genius with the ball and runs hard. He can find the line and is good under the high ball. I’m at a loss as to why he isn’t in everyone’s Raiders round one side.
Recruitment Grading: C
On the surface, the Raiders haven’t signed any massive names. They lack the marquee player like a Crichton or Johnson, but they’ve recruited pretty well.
In terms of value, John Bateman and Ryan Sutton are brilliant buys. The former Wigan forwards have plenty of quality and will play bigger minutes than the men they replaced.
That said, the Raiders have lost Blake Austin and haven’t brought in a ready made replacement. Jack Wighton is rumoured to be training with a move into the halves in mind.
Wighton’s ability to slot into the number six will likely be key in the fortunes of his side in the early rounds.
On paper, the Raiders didn’t need too many changes, but given they were a long way from finals footy in 2018, perhaps they needed a little more than two replacement forwards with zero NRL games to their name.
On paper, the 2019 Raiders look a lot like the 2018 Raiders minus their most attacking half in Blake Austin. Jordan Rapana will miss almost half the season.
Those don’t make for good reading for fans of the lime green.
On the plus side, I believe Sutton and Bateman will provide a big impact off the bench. It’s arguable that the Raiders have the best bench in the competition. They certainly have an elite forward pack.
With Croker returning in the centres to join Leilua the Raiders look like they’ll be able to score plenty of points, however, I’m just not sure where the chances are created.
Sezer is going to have to play out of his skin while Wighton is going to need to hit the ground running if the Raiders want to play finals footy.
1-17 they probably have a top eight side, but given they were a long way from finals footy in 2018 and the fact they’ve lost Austin, I just can’t see them in the race.