The Canberra Raiders were widely tipped to make the finals in 2021, but the season went from one disaster to the next. Here is the season review.
Pre-season predicted finish: 6th
Actual finish: 10th
Record: Ten wins (-97)
2021 Season Snapshot
In the pre-season I suggested the Raiders would finish sixth. I felt guilty dropping them so low. I was chewed out in the comments. Shouted down.
They had it all. The superstar backline. The megastar halves. One of the game's best coaches. A ravenous fan base. It all!
Fast forward to early October and Raiders fans still can't believe the season they had to endure.
Tenth for this side seemed impossible in the pre-season. It should never have happened this way. They failed big time and you'd have to search high and far to find a Raiders fan who would disagree.
Star player: Jordan Rapana
Rapana was paying about $100 to one to be named as the Raiders best this season but he was absolutely incredible. He may be 32, but he certainly doesn't look it.
Asked to play multiple positions this season, Rapana stood out in all of them. He was very strong on the wing, as you'd expect, but his best games came at fullback.
I had to double check the stat but Rapana broke 138 tackles across his 22 appearances. He broke 15 against the Eels in Round 19.
Rapana will likely shift back to the wing, or remain in the centres after being named there in the Raiders' final game, but he was outstanding all season.
All Run Metres
Breakout star: Xavier Savage
This may be slightly controversial given he only made three appearances, two officially after the laughable scenes against the Dragons, but I've seen enough.
Prior to injury bringing an early end to his season the youngster tore both the Sea Eagles and the Sharks apart.
His performance against the Sharks was especially brilliant. He ran for 246 metres, broke nine tackles, made two line breaks and crossed for a try.
This kid has megastar written all over him.
Rugby League Outlaws break down the talking points in their Season Finale
Halfback situation sorted: Over the past week or so the Raiders 2022 season has become far more exciting. That came about due to the signing of Jamal Fogarty.
The former Titan ends the Raiders long, exhaustive search to add a first-choice halfback to the squad for next season.
Young stars step up: The Raiders may have fallen well short of their top four aspirations but there's a chance they'll look back upon this season fondly in a few years time.
The reason for that is the number of young players who established themselves as genuine first graders across the 2021 season.
Was it home sickness? Did the Raiders spit the dummy and release a player who made it clear he wouldn't be around next season? Was it a culture shift? A mixture of all three?
George Williams entered the season as one of the game's top few halfbacks. He was growing into the NRL perfectly and was set to spearhead another finals run.
Instead it all fell apart, he was released out of almost nowhere and no one speaks of him. A terrible look, and with all due respect to Sam Williams, left them depleted in the seven.
- No finals: Every team starts the season with the goal and expectation to make the finals. This Raiders side simply had to play finals!
Entering the season with the game's form player in Jack Wighton, a supreme forward pack, a crop of youngsters that can match any other club. A premiership-winning coach.
Everyone had the Raiders in their top eight. Anyone who didn't is either lying or lucky. How they didn't feature come the second week of September is beyond me.
Honestly even if they had lucked their way into an eighth-placed finish they were nothing more than fodder anyways.
Season grade: F
The Raiders are victims of expectations in terms of season grading, although I'd argue that anything other than a comfortable finals finish is a failure.
This side are in "win now" mode and begun the season with every piece to push for a top-four finish, or better.
What they produced simply wasn't up to standard. Ricky Stuart's press conferences became legendary for negative reasons. Who would he yell at or place blame on this time?
I hate to admit it but I have a soft spot for the Green Machine. I love their brand of footy. Unfortunately they didn't produce enough of it this season.
Was it the change in rules? An aging roster? Off-field issues? Whatever it was/is, Stuart and co have an off-season to work it out. Another season sans Finals could spell serious trouble.