NRL 2021 Season Preview: Canberra Raiders

Jack Wighton will have a bigger responsibility in 2021. Credit: nrl.com

It was another successful season for the men in green who ultimately fell one game short in its preliminary final outing against Melbourne.

Coach Ricky Stuart is continuing to build a great legacy at the Raiders but will be desperate to go all the way and hopefully guide the Green Machine to its first premiership since 1994.

What to expect:

Although the last two seasons have ended in heartbreak for the Raiders, there is plenty of optimism going into season 2021 with Jack Wighton coming off a career-best year, securing the 2020 Dally M medal while Josh Papalii is proving to be one of the premier front-row forwards in the league.

Improvement from underwhelming duo Curtis Scott and veteran Jordan Rapana will help the side while another full pre-season should help George Williams add to his stunning first season in the NRL.

The big question is whether they have the depth that they’ve had in previous seasons when they have featured deep into the season. Ryan James joins from the Titans to fill in a forward spot vacated by John Bateman who will be sorely missed. Proven try scorer Nick Cotric also leaves the side that made the preliminary final last year and with captain and star centre Croker out for the first month of the season, all eyes will be on Wighton to perform.

We cannot underestimate the return of Josh Hodgson which is a huge in for Canberra. The star Englishmen veteran takes the Raiders game up a notch and although Tom Starling filled the gap nicely after Hodgson’s season ending injury, he’s not the same player.

They also have the hugely underrated Elliott Whitehead and superstar Joseph Tapine who are locks in its starting line-up. Don’t be surprised if Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad turns into one of the premier full-backs in 2021 either.

Can they comeback from finals heartbreak?

Premiership windows cannot stay open forever and for the Raiders, the pressure will go up a notch this year.

While the previous two seasons are widely regarded as a success from the men in green, the Raiders have failed to be the last team standing after being on the wrong side of a Grand Final and a Preliminary Final in consecutive years.

Will 2021 be the season they go all the way or have they missed the boat? History says that unless you’re Melbourne, chances like this don’t come round too often.

Squad:

Caleb Aekins, Adam Cook, Jarrod Croker, Matt Frawley, Emre Guler, Corey Harawira-Naera, Siliva Havili, Josh Hodgson, Albert Hopoate, Corey Horsburgh, Ryan James, Dunamis Lui, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Josh Papalii, Jordan Rapana, Harry Rushton, Curtis Scott, Bailey Simonsson, Harley Smith-Shields, Sia Soliola, Tom Starling, Ryan Sutton, Joseph Tapine, Matthew Timoko, Semi Valemei, Elliott Whitehead, Jack Wighton, George Williams, Sam Williams, Hudson Young, Ata Mariota, Darby Medlyn, Trey Mooney, Kai O’Donnell, Xavier Savage, Clay Webb. 

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