13 October 2020

Raiders not daunted by flying into the gathering Storm

| Tim Gavel
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Joe Tapine

Joe Tapine at the Raiders press conference. Photo: Tim Gavel.

If you needed any further proof that the Raiders are as close-knit as any team we have witnessed in the NRL, look no further than today’s media session leading into the Friday night preliminary final against Melbourne in Brisbane.

The Raiders have been on the road for much of 2020 and are preparing for their 13th away game this year. The COVID-19 bubble means they’ve spent a lot of time in each other’s company.

During the media conference there was plenty of banter among the playing group, but at the same time a visible desire to play for each other. There is very little outside influence on this team.

Charnze Nicoll-Kolkstad said he hadn’t read or heard any commentary around his performance on Friday night against the Sydney Roosters.

Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad

Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad spoke to media ahead of the Storm match. Photo: Tim Gavel.

The 22-18 victory ended the Roosters’ dreams of a ‘threepeat’ but raised hometown hopes of a grand final vindication after last year’s heartbreaking grand final loss.

It was a contest for the ages, as Nicoll-Klokstad lifted his game to a new level against the benchmark fullback in the game, James Tedesco, despite playing with obvious pain.

Not far off the three-quarter mark, Nicoll-Klokstad endured agonising leg cramps but fought on and saved a Josh Morris try and, with it, the match.

It wasn’t his only vital save.

Brett Morris also looked like he had unstoppable momentum before halftime, but Nicoll-Klokstad pulled him up hard and bought vital time for the Raiders’ defence to re-group.

As it turned out, the main commentary he heard post-match was from his teammates. Their judgement on his cramping? Less than sympathetic. They diagnosed it as grade-3 overacting.

Joe Tapine was asked about his try which had commentators and legends of the game in raptures.

Categorising the spur of the moment decision making as awkward to talk about, Tapine said he simply identified smaller players to run at rather than the Roosters’ monster forward pack.

On the way, he beat five Roosters defenders to cross over. Raiders coach Ricky Stuart said afterwards that he hadn’t seen a better forward’s try and it was a memorable cap to Tapine’s 100th game with the club.

It appears there is no room for egos in the bubble and the Raiders clearly enjoy each other’s company. It shows on and off the field and is the reason why they’re not fazed by the travel factor, and spending more time with their teammates.

Melbourne Storm’s 2020 echoes the Raiders’.

The Storm has been based on the Sunshine Coast for much of the season to avoid COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria. The team has thrived as a rugby league club in AFL heartland.

Nicoll-Klokstad is well aware of the strength of the Storm having come through their SG Ball and NYC programs before heading to the Warriors and eventually finding a home at the Raiders.

Playing against his mates at the Storm is a prospect he relishes.

But it’s nothing compared to when you’re playing with your mates.

Original Article published by Tim Gavel on The RiotACT.

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