In a cosmic way, the Raiders losing to the Rabbitohs is my own fault. I said they'd lose and got exactly what I prophesised. I wasn't happy about it, but at the end of the day, football shouldn't be life. The Raiders aren't going away and they may yet find themselves back on top of the mountain.

Although it's a bit premature to throw up my hands in disgust and declare that the Raiders are over for this season.

There's another two thirds of the season and plenty of time for more Ricky rockets at half time to right the ship. But I normally understand what the Raiders are going to do in the post-season at around round 14 - 16. If the current trend continues, they'll finish in the top half of the bottom eight and suffer a player exodus.

Sometimes that's just how it goes. But I don't want this article to be 'abandon hope all ye who enter here'. The media and fairweather fans will produce the hate and overanalysis on the Raiders being bad. I'm here to put air in their tyres. Assuming any current players or coaching staff find this segment and read it.

My cold, hard opinion on the Raiders this week is that despite all the injuries to key players (including George Williams pulling a hamstring in the warm-up), the Raiders played better. Much better. Both sides of the field got involved with nice touches and scoring plays. The forward pack worked together. Supporters and neutral observers got to see a bright spark of Raider form.

In the end it wasn't enough and their purple patch ran out, but for that first forty minutes they had Souths completely stuffed. I felt confident that the Bunnies weren't going to find the white stripe. I was proven wrong by the end of the first half, but only just.

Then the second half came and the Raiders lost touch. So the hunt for a complete eighty minute performance is still on. But if the Raiders maintain their level of enthusiasm (an admittedly tough task to do) they'll find themselves back on the right side of the score sheet sooner, rather than later. After all, even in mediocre seasons, the Raiders have never been completely dreadful (other than 2014).

There will always be something to cheer for.

Just another disclaimer before I jump into the next segment. Yes, I think both Jack Wighton's tries should have stood and I think the Raiders were gamed out of them. More on that later. But that is not the fault of the match officials. The NRL forces them to play to rules as written (hey, look, it's a 40k term in a Rugby League write-up), not rules as interpreted.

As soon as Benji took a dive by firing himself into the hip of Emre Guler, the match officials had no choice. That's what the rulebook says. I agree with Graham Annesley. At no point should the match officials bear responsibility for what are a pair of soft dives by the Rabbitohs.

I guess I started the next segment a bit early, eh?

The Parting Shot

Wayne Bennett said at the press conference that he said Souths slipped into 'old habits'. Spoiler alert, they did that because the Raiders put them under pressure. It wasn't just Souths playing poorly, it was the Raiders playing well. As I seem to keep repeating, eventually the Bunnies found their balance and made off with the game. But for sixty minutes, they were in trouble.

Souths will again be there or thereabouts come September. Part of that you can chalk up to the master coaching of his holiness the Wayne. Part of that is the excellent lineup. But with the threat of Adam Reynolds and Dane Gagai departing at the end of the season, I cannot help but wonder how long it will take for them to start dumpster diving again.

Which brings me to my only gripe on the night. I said on the night that I couldn't hate Souths and that the are not a grubby football team. They aren't. Cody Walker competes and does silly things and Keaon Koloamatangi has a rubbish haircut, but I cannot hate the Rabbitohs. Not like I used to.

But for a little while I will have an axe to grind against Benji Marshall for milking a no-try out of the Raiders - denying the Raiders and Jack Wighton a chance to hunt the game down. Then on the other side of the field, lecturing the young Raiders for not being smarter. There's arrogance, then there's that.

There's no doubt that even in his twilight years, Benji is prodigiously talented. He came to Souths looking for a structure to exist in and ended up cracking the starting team inside a fortnight.

But Benji is an jerk for denying the Raiders a try by pretending to run into Emre Guler and then mocking those same players for not having the smarts to milk penalties. Get real, Benji, you're part of the problem. You are there to sell the game as a tough, physical contest of skill, speed and aggression. Displays like that make fans turn off.

Vulkan Medal Points

Le Hidden Gem - Jack Wighton (1pt)

We're talking about a man of the match performance if Benji doesn't dive and halt the Raiders' offensive momentum. He showed the talent and the form that took him to a Clive Churchill and a Dally M on Thursday night.

In a side full of rookies, players with poor form and eleventh-hour reshuffles, Jack Wighton delivered a standout performance. He led the side around with proficiency, kicked to the corners well and had a hand in several of the Raider tries.

If nothing else, Jack's performance on Thursday night assured me that if we can only keep Jack Wighton out of our current crop of players, we'll do just fine. He seemed to improve when the responsibility shifted to him and him alone. No kicks out on the full, either, when he's guaranteed one a game for pretty much ever.

Stand tall, Jacko - as long as the Raiders have you, there will always be a light at the end of the tunnel.

This week sees the Raiders travel to their second home ground at Wagga. Close to Junee, Laurie Daley's hometown. The city council has decked the proverbial halls and this week sees a very winnable matchup in the form of the Knights.

Catch you next time,

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