Another week, another set of games to cover.
I am pleased the Raiders disproved Corey Parker, even if it was clearing the lowest bar of their last three games - the sixteenth placed Bulldogs.
They didn't make it easy on themselves, particularly in the first half - but they did seem to be a more coherent team than weeks gone past. I think part of that revolves around Jack Wighton not being there, and the side reverting to a more physical, rudimentary style of football.
Jack has long been the alpha voice in the side, and though Jamal Fogarty has, at various points, been handed the keys to the bus, there's an issue with the leadership dynamics when Canberra takes the field. With Matt Frawley, an experienced, if unspectacular player at the five-eighth position, there was less strike power and flash, but a greater willingness to dig into the Dogs' defensive line.
It's very similar to the comparison of Xavier Savage stacking up against Seb Kris. Yes, Xavier Savage is a much faster, technical, and flashy player, capable of individual feats of brilliance, Seb is a brutal, running fullback that's hard to stop and powers Canberra out of their back third.
It's a balancing act - do you want to bully sides into submission and win games on the back of hammering your opponent into the dirt, or do you want to break tackles and zip through gaps, substituting raw power for finesse.
The stats all but confirm Canberra's mission statement against the Bulldogs. Bite down into the mouthguard, and go up the guts. With the exception of Ata Mariota, who played a third of the game, the Raiders' forwards all managed over 100 meters and some, particularly Josh Papalii, managed nearly 200.
The decision to bring Josh onto the field in the middle of the game rather than have him start, if it continues, represents a passing of the torch moment. He's an experienced veteran, a leader and a warrior, but you don't need that immediately, you need that when your troops are taking casualties in the trenches. Entering the game at approximately the 20th minute, Josh was full of beans and hammered his way upfield, feasting on a smaller, fatigued Canterbury side.
It got so bad that by the time he stormed over for his four-pointer, the Bulldogs' fullback just shrugged his shoulders and let him past. Now that's the intimidation factor, right there.
Of course, whilst it's easy for me to sing the praises and forgive the sins of a Canberra side after a win at home, it wasn't easy. That's been the narrative all year for Canberra, which is to say, making easy tasks seem hellishly difficult. At 12-all at the midway mark, and nearly going down a score before Jarrod Croker produced a miracle ankle tap, it appeared Canberra was going to have to battle their way back - and with how vocal the visitors were in the stadium, that might not have been possible.
And with the last two games of the year being against firmly entrenched top eight sides, if they play as they did against Canterbury, it's going to be a very rough fortnight.
The good news, is that the NRLW side will be there to infuse the fans with the good chemicals. Because, wow.
The ladies, much like the dudes, made an easy assignment look difficult. So clearly the apple doesn't fall far from the tree with regards to footy DNA. The Raiders in the NRL and the NRLW are clearly related.
But, every week the side seems to click that much more. After a narrow escape against the Dragons, the Raiders returned to Canberra to take on an under strength Parramatta Eels side, missing their captain, Kennedy "Kez" Cherrington.
Canberra did what they did best, rolled up their sleeves, and proceded to bully the Parramatta forward line. Simaima was at her damaging best, chewing up the middle of the field, smashing people with stiff-arm fends, and she was joined by every other forward. Amazing Grace, Big Kere - you name it, they all chimed in.
It seems every week that the women improve their soft skills - ball movement, positioning, set plays, and working as a team. That bore fruit as the Raiders piled on the points on a very vulnerable looking Eels side.
Eventually the momentum turned, and the Eels found some cheap scores once the fatigue piled up. But just as the NRLW imitates the NRL, the ladies held on grimly to record a narrow win over an opponent they should've cleaned up. Still, considering how low stakes the women's game is presently (at least for me, fat prick fan #4971), I don't mind as much.
Despite both sides recording wins over the weekend, I was not treated to the good chemicals. I think the inevitability of Canberra travelling to the finals and getting belted by any number of much improved top eight sides is an incredible weight on the soul.
Still, you have to be in it, to win it.
This week sees Jarrod Croker's (and Jack Wighton's) last regular home game ever. It's a "Dante Must Die" level challenge for the Green Machine too, as they handle the red hot Brisbane Broncos. Last year the Raiders cucked them for a finals spot. This year, maybe their fortunes will be reversed.
Only one way to find out.
Just before I go, the general public was informed of the passing of Kyle Turner this week. It's an incredible tragedy, likely brought on by the brain and neck injuries he suffered playing a tough, physical game.
He will be immortalized by his role in Souths' drought-breaking 2014 premiership.
Rest in peace, young warrior.
Catch you next time,
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