Canberra Raiders 2017 season review

Eddie Otto Roar Pro

By , Eddie Otto is a Roar Pro

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    The Raiders entered 2017 as one of the popular picks to win the premiership after a brilliant 2016 season.

    Having lost to the Storm by just two points in the preliminary final, many expected a settled Raiders team to continue on the huge momentum they built off the back of winning their last ten regular season games in 2016. However, the season would prove one of frustration and disappointment as the Raiders became one of the flops of the season, missing the finals altogether.

    Season finish: 10th
    Vital statistics: 11 wins, 13 losses, 558 points scored, 497 points conceded.

    Season rating: 2/10
    It might seem tough to give a team that finished outside the bottom six a rating of 2/10, but the Raiders came into the season as one of the rightful premiership favourites. However, they never really lived up to the hype, with a number of close losses from poor game management and poor discipline in games.

    The Raiders can (can’t?) blame bad luck with the roster they had. I thought their forwards underperformed for most of the season, and the players in their spine, outside of Josh Hodgson, never raised their games or took ownership of the close games. The team at very worst should have scraped into the top eight; to miss the finals was probably the biggest shock of any team this season.

    Coach rating: 5/10
    I think Ricky Stuart overall has done a great job at the Raiders, and I don’t think this year will stop the hierarchy having faith in him. I think it’s up to the playmakers to step up under pressure and deliver, otherwise I’m sure Ricky might be on the market for a half or two in the next couple of years. The salary cap has started to bite a bit, however, so Ricky might need to get a bit more out of some of last year’s players if they want to get back to where they were, just two points away from the grand final in 2016.

    (Image: AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

    Best win: Round 22 – Cronulla Sharks 12-30 Canberra Raiders
    This was clearly the Raiders’ best win of the season, over a strong side in a hostile environment. Fast, powerful and physical, this was meant to the blueprint on which Canberra could build a premiership challenge. Sadly, these performances were few and far between.

    Worst loss: Penrith Panthers 24-20 Canberra Raiders
    I chose this game as it is unforgivable to give up an eight-point lead with just two minutes to go. However, that is exactly what they did here against a rival for a top eight spot. While this was the Raiders’ most dramatic loss of the year, they suffered many close defeats as they failed to have the mental toughness or game management to close out much-needed victories. It cost them dearly in the end.

    Best player: Elliott Whitehead
    While many of the Raiders’ biggest names flopped in 2017, I thought the big Englishman was outstanding for the majority of the season. He filled in at a number of positions and maintained a high quality work rate and a strong defensive technique. He was by far the Raiders most consistent player this season.

    Most disappointing player: Blake Austin
    The enigmatic five-eighth had been a popular wildcard for an Origin berth over the past couple of years but he was ordinary for much of 2017. Austin’s running game remained dangerous, but his general passing and kicking game was far too inconsistent for a player of his talent. Combined with Aidan Sezer, they failed to take control in clutch moments and will be under pressure to produce much better football or be moved on in 2018.

    Prospects for 2018: Likely top-eight finish
    I think this team learnt a lot from this year’s near misses and will make the necessary adjustments next season. I still have some doubts about whether their halves and their fullback will be good enough in big games; however, the roster clearly has top-eight talent all over it.

    It is not a young side anymore, and I think Ricky Stuart will have to crack the whip over the preseason. While you wouldn’t back them with confidence after what they produced last year, I think this side has the talent to not only get back into the top eight but potentially the top four.