Canberra Raiders’ season is on a knife-edge

Canberra Raiders Celebrating
The Canberra Raiders celebrating during more successful times in 2019 (credit NRL photos)

The Canberra Raiders are in a precarious position with their season on a knife-edge.

The Canberra side needs a complete turnaround as quickly as possible. With challenges both on and off-field, the Raiders will need to lift to get anything out of 2021.

Off-field problems continue to plague the Raiders, with George Williams recently leaving the club to be back in the UK.

COVID-19 has separated the Raiders star from his family for an overwhelming period that had become too much. In recent days it was revealed the Raiders have released Williams from his contract, a decision that has brought even more distraction to the club.

This is a decision that Williams disagrees with, he tried to tell his side of the story via Twitter.

In recent weeks, Josh Hodgson has also stepped down as captain, adding to the off-field distraction.

This decision came from Hodgson based upon his consistent injury issues and inability to get back on the park. Hodgson has however, reiterated he is committed to the club. He spoke on his decision.

“I can assure everyone that I remain fully committed to the club, and I’m looking forward to getting myself back to 100% fitness and helping the team get their season back on track,” he said.

While Hodgson may say he is committed to the side, there are no doubt rumblings around the camp.

The Raiders seem to have a leaking problem. With information consistently leaving Canberra regarding Ricky Stuart’s coaching. Former Raider John Bateman spoke to the Sydney Morning Herald on this leaking.

“I don’t understand how you’re told to keep things internally, but the next minute you’ve got [journalists] chatting about it within 24 hours of what’s been said at the club,” he said.

Stuart spoke on these issues and off-field distractions during Friday’s press conference.

“There’s been too much of our week dealing with other issues, and this takes you away from coaching. The losing exacerbates it and adds to it,” he said.

These issues are symptomatic of a more significant problem at the Raiders.

It seems the team can gel when the on-field results are going well, but as soon as results dip, the group falls apart. It screams of a side that is not connecting and wants to find others to blame rather than looking in on itself.

For the Raiders to improve off the field, it seems that on-field results will need to change.

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The Raiders are now four wins from 11 matches, a dreadful start for a side so dominant in recent years.

Having made the Grand Final in 2019 and then the preliminary final in 2020, the Canberra side wanted to go further in 2021. A turnaround of results is needed.

Star prop Josh Papalii was recently suspended for three matches for a high tackle on Tui Katoa of the Bulldogs.

His three-match suspension does not just rule him out for the Raiders but also of Origin 1.

While the NRL has implemented a crackdown on high hits, Papalii’s action is an example of the ill-discipline of the Raiders on and off-field.

With George Williams now gone, it will be up to Sam Williams to step into his shoes on Saturday. Ricky Stuart spoke on the team response to having Sam take up this position.

“I’ve got all the confidence in the world in regards to the team getting around the field. The players all like Sam Williams and will play for him too,” he said.

With over half the season still to be played, the Raiders season is not over yet, but without a complete turnaround, it quickly will be.

With only two points separating the Raiders in 11th and the Dragons in seventh, finals are still possible.

At the same time, questions remain over Ricky Stuart’s coaching style and the off-field distractions.

Stuart must find a way to inspire his men to get the team to trust each other again and get back to the playing style that saw the Raiders prosper in 2019 and 2020.

The Raiders take on the Roosters Saturday night with kick-off at 7:35 pm.

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About Rory Denis 49 Articles
Rory writes on cricket, rugby league and Aussie Rules for The Inner Sanctum. His focus is cricket, with a focus on analysis recaps and commentary via Twitter. He has also featured on the Over and Stumps podcast on the inner sanctum network. Outside of the Inner Sanctum, he is a law student at the University of Canberra.

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