Canberra’s unbeatable game plan finally decoded
On the weekend NRL fans witnessed something special. Spine chilling. An event onlookers would one day tell their bored grandchildren about.
The struggling Knights and the wily Wayne Bennett upsetting the game’s reigning premiers, I hear you ask? Or perhaps the Cowboys breaking their long-held Melbourne hoodoo?
Piffle. Both of these pale in comparison to the real story of round 19.
Yes, I am of course talking about the era that ended abruptly yesterday afternoon in the sublime winter sunshine.
In what is looking like a turning point for the code’s future, the Raiders’ winning streak came to a shocking end in front of a stunned Canberra Stadium.
For two magical weeks that seemed to stretch on for eternity, the Canberra Raiders were invincible. Sides would look on in awe as enigmatic superstar Reece Robinson slid in for try after try, and David ‘Oracle’ Furner glowed a glorious red at each victorious press conference as he extolled the virtues of his paradigm-shifting approach to rugby league.
Even occasional first-graders like Sandor ‘Star-Spangled’ Earl quickly rose to the upper echelons of greatness after pulling on a simultaneously traditional and avant-garde lime jersey, slotting in seamlessly to the well-oiled green machine.
So what went wrong? How could Furner’s ‘unbeatable’ game plan be so ruthlessly decoded? His heavily tattooed tyros trampled?
Watching the match unfold, it was easy to suspect that some skulduggery was afoot. The fans at the ground caught wind of the likelihood of underhandedness, booing the corruption of it all at the half-time break.
Or, maybe there’s just the smallest chance that Canberra weren’t really that good.
Now, I’m all for football teams displaying confidence, don’t get me wrong. And for someone like Sandor Earl to come out and publicly back the game plan of a coach who spends most of game day updating his LinkedIn account is a nice show of loyalty (or epic brown nosing).
But for Earl to declare that “he didn’t know how the Raiders could possibly lose” earlier this week was right up there with an American boxing scribe labelling Anthony Mundine ‘The David Beckham of Rugby’. That is, at best a little ignorant.
This was a team that had lost its best playmaker. Their best attacking weapon. Who three weeks ago had 40 points put on them by the Cowboys. But somehow the brains trust at ASIO had developed a super plan that would see the Raiders scoring nothing but Ws for the foreseeable future.
Granted, kudos should be given to be given to Canberra for exposing the Storm’s defensive vulnerabilities the week before, something the rest of the NRL is sure to remember come Christmas-card time.
But, when your own defence is decimated by tactics amounting to John Cartwight saying “You, big dreadlocked man, run at puny head-geared centre,” it’s probably wise not to race out and get that Black Caviar chest tattoo just yet.
The future does bode well for the Raiders, and even if they fall short of the finals this year you would have reason to believe that a lot of success is not too far away.
However, most of us would be happy to see a few more outcomes before they go yapping to the media.
After all, there’s a whole bunch of people in the big house down on the hill in Canberra that we’re already paying to do that.
Follow Chris on Twitter: @Vic_Arious
Chris Chard is a sports humour writer commenting on the often absurd nature of professional sport. A rugby league fan boy with a good blend of youth and experience taking things one week at a time, Chris has written for The Roar, Rugby League Player Magazine, US Sports Downunder, the QRL and People. Tweet him @Vic_Arious
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