And so, with heavy heart and much regret, we bid farewell to the 2021 Rugby League season. At least, for the Raiders. By the time this article is published, the players will have returned back to Canberra.
Just in time to lock down and do nothing for weeks on end.
There'll be end of season awards. And a mad monday. For a brief, fleeting moment, the Raiders will be able to put the misery of the season behind them.
Then if the leadership of the club is worth it's salt, they'll conduct a review and hopefully find the answer to this year. I'd say things like "it wasn't acceptable" and "someone needs to be responsible for this" - but let's level with each other, hypothetical reader. I am a fan, the club doesn't care what I think.
Provided I pay my fees, I'll get to watch the mediocrity every year.
As much as I really enjoy football and I crave the sweet, sweet dopamine of watching my team win, sometimes it can be very difficult. I know the Raiders didn't deserve to play finals football this year. Canberra regressed this year - or the rest of the league caught up with them - and they paid for it in their standing on the ladder.
But it wasn't just that. A hideous losing streak shattered their confidence. Player disharmony splintered the playing group. Injuries and suspensions took their toll. It's never a good sign when you release two players mid-season, one due to front office mismanagement, the other for being a loose cannon too fond of a pint.
Even playing finals footy wouldn't have spared the club from a harsh review. They were going to be a free hit and easy prey for the Sea Eagles, or Eels or Roosters anyway. It just means I would've had to write another article. Now I only have to write this one - and maybe the season in review.
Before I return to my normal schedule of playing World of Warcraft and disregarding the Raiders, let's talk about their last game of the season. Against a Roosters side who had been destroyed by injury. Their halves combination was a revolving door. Their outside backs (with the exception of James Tedesco and maybe Daniel Tupou) were rookies or just starting their career. Their forward pack had some stalwarts, but none of the high-class power you'd think of in a modern Roosters side.
The Raiders started reasonably. The forward pack fired up and punched through the middle. Both sides were making errors, but the enthusiasm was there. Whitehead punched through to slam the ball down and it looked like Canberra might just earn that free hit.
The Roosters then hit back after a mountain of possession through Matt Ikavalu. But it didn't seem to slow the Raiders down as Josh Papalii smashed the front door open.
Then came sixty-five minutes of one-way Roosters traffic. Drew Hutchison had the ball on a string and Semi Valemei could not for the life of him, catch a ball. He spent the rest of the first half and some of the second half getting caught out, beaten in the air and dropping the ball for easy Roosters tries. They ate him alive.
Far too late in the game, Semi got shuffled to the right side, but the damage was done. Instead the Roosters shifted back to pushing through the middle and using what few key players they had left to run rings around the Canberra defensive line.
The Roosters put the cue in the rack around the seventy-five minute mark, having racked up forty points and never looking like losing from around the midway point of the first half. The Raiders got a junk-time try, but it mattered little.
Game over, season over.
Ricky said it himself in the press conference:
"We might as well go see the families because fuck it. Umm if we couldn’t beat that team, Christ. No good waiting for another week to get beaten."
I mean disrespect to the Roosters. They had no right to be in that game. They had no right to win. And yet. The Raiders were humiliated by a team massively inferior to them. Comprehensively. And this is the team I'm supposed to beat my chest about until I've got purple bruises.
Outside of the Gold Coast dunking on the Raiders at home prior to the Queensland exodus, this is the hardest loss to take. It's hard to accept that a team full of literal who's and James Tedesco blitzed Canberra. But the football gods don't care for what's hard to take and what's difficult to accept. It happened anyway.
Win, lose or draw, despite the poor performances, phoning it in and the poor results, I still love the Raiders. They're my team. I still feel that little twinge of pride when I wear one of my jerseys. Regardless of good results, poor results and a spike in mediocrity, I'll support the Raiders until the day I leave this mortal plane.
Bleed Green, indeed.
The Parting Shot
There's no-one to be mad about. James Tedesco backflipped on his contract, but he was within his rights to. I'm still dirty, but we got our own back eventually. Kind of. Not really.
Trent Robinson is a fantastic coach and to do what he's done with that playing group is nothing short of a miracle. He's always been a prolific developer of talent. He's up there with Craig Bellamy as a real deal operator in the realm of Rugby League.
So barring another catastrophic issue with personnel, I'd get used to the Roosters being dominant. They will take their place alongside the Storm as kings of the modern era. As much as that infuriates me as one of the corpses they stepped over on their way to greatness was the 2019 Raiders.
So that's the season. I'm torn as to if I bother to do a season review. If I do, it'll be post Grand Final day. I probably will. So, see you in a few weeks.
Catch you next time,
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