So the Raider finals redemption tour is off to a terrible start. After a win against the Dragons, the Raiders have been found out by the Storm and the Sea Eagles.
No, it's not a surprise. Yes, it does mean that we are nearly at the end of Canberra's season from hell. No, we're probably not playing finals. The question is, who gets the blame?
Before that, let's talk about the game in question - Tom Turbo was ruled out beforehand. It was nice of the Sea Eagles to give the Raiders a sporting chance. Even better, Manly was asleep for the entire first half, allowing the Raiders to hold a reasonable, but not comfortable, lead at the main break.
Then, in a story most Canberra fans are familiar with, they ran out of gas, or motivation, or the other team managed to work out their defensive structure, and the Raiders leaked points. Is it disappointing? No, not after twenty straight weeks of watching the Raiders try (and mostly fail) to hold off the other team.
There was a brief glimmer of hope as CNK scored late from an excellent movement, allowing Sammy Williams to chip it over and make things interesting. It was then even nicer of Manly to concede a penalty and give the Raiders a chance to win the game with an, admittedly difficult, 40 meter field goal.
Then Jordan Rapana, cooked from running around as a fullback all game, proceeded to kick the longest grubber ever. Game over, Manly wins.
If it sounds like I'm mad, I'm not really. It's not new the Raiders cannot protect leads this season. It's the difference for the Raiders in seasons gone by - '17 and '18 were defined by this "close losses are a thing of the past" narrative. When the Raiders tighten up, they make a big impact at the end of the year. When they don't, they won't.
Nice little sound-byte for you there.
I'll save the "so where to from here" spiel for round 25 when the death of Canberra's season is confirmed. There are two tough games from here on out and though it is certainly an uphill battle, we're not totally out of that free-hit picture yet.
The Parting Shot
I still don't hate Manly.
Manly in recent years has turned into an upper-middle class football team with a strong core of likeable players. Yes, Queensland Fans, I just called DCE 'likable'. Deal with it.
Kieran Foran making like Lazarus and resurrecting his career there, Des being a steady hand on the tiller and the Turbo boys (hopefully there's room for a third) being the next generation of local, home grown talent to put bums on seats at Brookie.
The age of the Fibros and the Silvertails is well and truly over - and in place we have rivalries and grudges that are maintained by the fans, not the players. Ask Latrell Mitchell about how he feels about the "Book of Grudges". I'll give you five bucks that if you asked him whilst the cameras weren't rolling that he would not give a damn.
Does Manly have the firepower to go deep? Yes. Can they overcome the Melbourne Storm juggernaut that has crushed everything in its path? Historically, no, but a month is a long time in football.
Unless Penrith finds some form in a christmas cracker, I give Manly the best chance of shocking the Storm.
So that's the tale of the tape. If you thought the Raiders were going to turn a corner and maybe put something together, I wouldn't hold your breath. Next week doesn't get any easier as the Raiders take on the Roosters. I'm sure I don't have to remind you all about how that turned out. (Spoiler alert, it turned out poorly.)
Catch you next time,
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