21 October 2020

Do the Raiders need to go on a recruiting drive for next season?

| Tim Gavel
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The Canberra Raiders squad

Looking to the 2021 season for the Raiders. Photo: Supplied.

In the wake of the 30-10 loss to the Melbourne Storm in the preliminary final, there was a certain amount of despair among Raiders fans.

They came so close to another grand final appearance.

Not that this season was a disappointment. Far from it. With an injury toll that had seven first graders on the sidelines for much of the season, with only Sia Soliola and John Bateman returning for the run home, the team went further than most expected.

Josh Hodgson, Curtis Scott, Bailey Simonsson, Emre Guler and Corey Horsburgh finished the season on the sideline.

Then there was the mind-boggling travel schedule which resulted in the Raiders travelling more than any other team in the competition. And while it brought the team closer, it impacted severely on energy levels as we saw on Friday night.

They came up against a team that had the benefit of the week off and significantly less travel time on the day of the game.

There is no need for over-analysis in relation to potential changes, as my understanding is that there is only one contract available.

READ MORE Jack Wighton caps off an incredible 12 months, winning the Dally M medal as the NRL’s top player

With John Bateman and Nick Cotric the main departures, the club has recruited Ryan James, with 144 NRL games under his belt, along with English rising star, Harry Rushton.

Rushton is seen initially as a player to develop but at 6’3″ inches he could be a player to watch out for next season.

Corey Harawira-Naera will benefit by having an off-season with the Raiders.

Another player recruited by the Raiders is North Queensland outside back Elijah Anderson who played in the Queensland under 20s side in 2019.

Jordan Rapana is yet to re-sign, but that is not too far away.

Rapana finished the season in the centre because of the injury toll on the team, with Scott ruled out, coupled with the departure of BJ Leilua.

In 2021 a potential backline could be Williams at half, Wighton at five-eighth, Croker and Scott in the centres, Rapana and Simonsson on the wings with Nicoll-Klokstad at fullback.

There is also the prospect of having Valemi on the wing with Smith-Shields and Timoko adding depth to the centres.

In the forwards, with Hodgson returning there is more structure, with a front-row led by Papalii and Tapine, Young, Soliola, Sutton, Whitehead, Horsburgh and possibly, Rushton, contending for the back row.

There is much to like about the stability within the Raiders. This season was like no other in terms of travel and in the end it proved to be decisive.

It is why there is no need to worry about the immediate future.

Original Article published by Tim Gavel on The RiotACT.

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