The mainstream media won't use the phrase "round eleven", because they're in on the deep state conspiracy that is magic round.

That means all reference to round eleven must be stricken from the public record and replaced with "Magic Round" or "Magic". Why, even as I pen these words, I can hear the rotor blades of NRL-sanctioned goon squad helicopters, sent to silence me for using the phrase "round eleven" instead of "Magic Round".

But, before they cart me away, I need you, dear readers, to understand that it is, in fact, round eleven. But it is also magic round.

Whilst I have you here, wrapped up in an imaginary conspiracy about magic round, the NRL, and the deep state, let me climb atop my soapbox.

The AFL, seeing the success of "Mistah Magic" round, shat themselves in fear and signed a multi-year deal with the South Australian government to hold "Gather Round", which I shall refer to as "Magic Round, but at home."

Don't believe me? Let's compare the pair.

Canberra got to play at the mighty Lang Park, a stadium with a maximum capacity of 50,000 spectators, in essentially prime time, with an electric atmosphere.

In addition, it was possible to watch all eight games at the same venue - heck, you didn't even have to move seats.

GWS were shunted out to some dump in Adelaide's boonies with a capacity of 5,000 spectators.

It wasn't possible to watch all nine games, because they were held at three different stadiums, all of which were forty-five minutes plus away from each other.

But don't you worry your pretty little head, small-market AFL fan - the real teams like Port Adelaide, Hawthorn, Collingwood, Geelong and the Western Bulldogs - they'll all get to play at the Adelaide Oval.

Great. Fantastic. Thanks for thinking of me.

The moral of this little sidetrack is that Magic Round is based, and Gather Round is shit. Do better, AFL. Or don't, so I can write the exact same hit piece next year when GWS plays at Norwood Oval again, to a crowd of "whoever could be bothered to schlep an hour out to the boonies for a game of footy."

Anyway, to the game. We're three games into the forced "rookies everywhere" pairing, and up to this point, results have been mixed. On the one hand, a 40 point drubbing by the Sharks where no-one bothered to show up, and the other being a 20-point comeback against the highly favoured Sea Iggles.

The bookies(tm) favoured the Bulldogs, because, let's face it, the Bulldogs are much improved this season, and the Raiders have a spine whose most experienced player (until Jordan Rapana came back this week) was a bloke who's spent his career drifting from team to team. Uh-oh.

But before I get too down on Danny Levi, he's been alright this season. Certainly much better than last year, where he was slower than a wet week and gave dummy-half service that was worse than a Bankstown Maccas. (eh? eh?)

Meanwhile, Canterbury's spine contains a grand-finallist rake, an ex-rooster who got pushed out by Sam Walker (so, you know, not dreadful), Matt "Stuka" Burton, and a literal who from the Sharks.

And, to the Bulldoges' credit, they were the better side for the vast majority of the game. They looked threatening all night, and known Red Rooster enthusiast, Jacob Preston, made life miserable for Canberra's right hand side.

And, just like last time the Raiders played the Bulldogs in magic round, Canterbury were subject to some absolutely rotten luck.

Braydon Trindall had a regulation bomb go off in his face, gifting the X-man a try, whilst Jacob Shiraz got belted by Ethan Strange, and Seb Kris scooped the ball up and bolted.

12-0 up.

Then it all went to hell.

Jordan Rapana smoked Josh Addo-Carr off the ball after a slick early kick from the Stuka, and ended up in the bin. With Canberra's edge defence already looking shaky, the Bulldogs took full advantage, and the Raiders conceded three tries in ten minutes.

To make matters worse, Josh Papalii ended up in the bin after taking the heat for Kaeo Weekes' hip drop. Eleven men on the field for ten minutes.

The green faithful began preparing for a belting.

But at the time I noted something - the last time this happened, Canberra won.

And, lo and behold, Canberra found a way to halt Canterbury's momentum in the second half, and Hudson Young, Ethan Strange and Kaeo Weeks combined to sink the Bulldogs in the last twenty minutes.

Kaeo sports producted a marvellous run when the green machine needed it most, and the Young gun finished the job. I can only imagine he'll get a bench spot in origin this year if he can maintain the rage. Particularly as his form this year is far less dependent on stripping the ball and running 90 meters to score.

And again, I'm impressed by Ethan Strange. Under pressure all night, he came up with clutch tackles, supported Kaeo well as he attempted to drive the bus, and proved he is a worthy successor to such lofy examples as Jack Wighton, Blake Austin and Terry Campese.

Although if he surpasses them all and wins Canberra their fourth premiership (not this year, obviously) he will have gone even further beyond. Big if though.

And Kaeo Weekes, despite a shocker against Cronulla (in which everyone had a shocker) - has proved himself an adequate replacement for Jamal Fogarty - which, considering how well Jamal Fogarty was playing before his pectoral muscle exploded, is high praise indeed.

I'm still confident Canberra will end up in the 9th - 12th bracket, as they don't have the teeth to handle tougher sides, such as Cronulla, Brisbad, or Melbourne.

But if they can keep improving this year, and their young guns can continue to develop - well, look out, world.

For now, it's another test at home against an upper-middle class Roosters outfit. Once again, Trent Robinson has performed the forbidden art of necromancy and brought the chooks back from the dead.

Can Canberra stop them, and earn another pass-mark on their development season test?

We'll see.

Catch you next time,

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