So initially I was going to figure out a way to post this on Tuesday. Make some low-effort excuse about how it didn't feel right to post this article on a public holiday, or on ANZAC day. In reality, I was just procrastinating. So this article may lower effort than usual. Apologies.
But then I saw the rest of the world moving on without me and thought that I should pull my finger out and hack up something. As tough as it is to talk about watching my football team. After all, I set out with the goal of being green-eyed, knowing that the rest of the fanbase and the media would do my job for me.
At the start of the season, when I began writing this series of articles, I wondered how long it would take for me to try and find the silver lining in the proverbial big black thundercloud of an embarrassing loss. In two bad losses to Penrith and Parramatta, I could say that at least they were top tier sides. But what do you say when your football team comes out and delivers a performance like the one Canberra did on Saturday night.
I thought about this a lot. I thought about it on the night, I thought about it on Sunday. I'm still digesting everything.
Before I get too excited, even at the height of their powers, the Raiders have never matched up particularly well against the Cowboys, or done particularly well in North Queensland. Even at the height of their powers, the Raiders have gone to North Queensland and struggled. Sometimes they've done enough to win, but it's never been particularly inspiring. The Cows are far from a bogey side for the Raiders, but it is neither easy beats or a pleasant roadtrip for Canberra in the sunblasted top end.
Even with that being said, I still don't really know where the wheels fell off. It appears neither does the coaching staff. But it's clear that the short term goals for the Raiders have shifted. It's no longer about being premiership contenders, it's about survival. In three weeks, they look like a midpack team at best and dangerously one-dimensional at worst. But this isn't new - even when the Raiders won, it was clear that an attack previously tuned to work with Tom Starling's "run and gun" style would have trouble adapting to a three pronged attack again.
There's plenty of evidence to support the fact that the Raiders can facilitate this style of attack. Their first win coming back from the six-week C19 break in 2020 when they shredded Melbourne 22-6. Coming to the start of the season and in the early games, there were signs that the Raiders had been able to successfully incorporate all three points of their attack again.
Somewhere along the line, the entire side went backward. It happens.
The key takeaway for me is that the side has all the components to do well. Yes, it's not going very well for them currently. They know that - saying it over and over again won't help. But in my denial in the loss to Parramatta, it's not about where you start, but where you finish. The Raiders historically start slow and gather momentum. Sometimes they narrowly miss (2017, 2018), sometimes they put it together and make good account of themselves (2010, 2012). If they get to round 15-16 and Canberra is still spinning it's wheels, we'll know what we're in for at season's end. And that's ok.
Much like 40k, board games and just about everything else in life, it's about the journey as much as it's about the end result. For the fans, at least. I make no appeal to the fanbase, because frankly I'm not fussed about if they go or do not. But me and Dad will always be there to watch the Raiders, because we genuinely enjoy going, even when they lose. The difference between a heartbreaking finals run and a season where you stay under the glass ceiling is millimetres. As delusional as it is, I have every confidence that Canberra, in one fashion or another, will make it back to the promised land.
It may even be this year. It's only round seven, after all.
It is becoming clearer that the Raiders need to evolve as a football side. Although actual football boffins would tell me I'm incorrect, it seemed that the Raiders had a single attacking play - spread the ball left. That left side is effective, but only because they recieve so much of the Steeden. For all I know, there will be a switch flicked in the tail half of the year and they'll show the attack they're capable of. Wouldn't that be a sight to see.
The Parting Shot
If the main body of the article gets harder to write each week, surely this is even harder. I had this segment pegged as a "haha, we beat you, now here's some nutritious salt for your wounds."
Instead, depending on how the Raiders and the Cowboys perform, this will be one of the highlights of their year. It's hard not to feel good for the Cowboys, who have spent the post-Thurston years in the gutter and recently had to deal with even more problems in the form of Michael Morgan's retirement.
As much as I'd like to dump on the Cowboys, the fact is the NRL needs the Queensland sides to be good. Except the Titans, it can live with the Titans being bad. But hotspots like the Brisbane and North Queensland areas need to be good to attract the type of fanbase the NRL needs to move forward.
The numbers don't lie. The Broncos have the most members, highest average crowd-attendance. North Queensland's stadium has always been packed to the gills by the faithful. Queensland is Rugby League's future - and Sydney, unless the demographic alters considerably, is Rugby League's past. North Queensland is part of that future and needs to "git gud" in a hurry.
So that's my low-effort, hackneyed analysis. I still think I got enough bias in there to compromise any journalistic value it may have had. And even though this week against the Rabbitohs promises another belting, I'll still be there.
And I hope you'll join me - provided you're wearing lime green and not that disgusting "Cardinal and Myrtle"
Catch you next time,
Did you like this article? Did you hate it? Go over and keep the discussion going on the official Vulkan's Corner facebook page! - whilst you're at it, leave a like!