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Raiders rediscover mojo with torturous home loss to lowly opposition

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Expert
28th May, 2019
16

Saturday’s frustrating defeat to the struggling Cowboys has re-estabilised the Raiders’ premiership campaign, with the side back on course to approach September needing results to go their way.

But the Green Machine won’t be resting on its laurels, with its current injury crisis needing to be exploited if they are to deliver fans another underwhelming ninth-place finish.

The 22-16 upset at Canberra Stadium couldn’t have come at a better time for Ricky Stuart’s men, with concerns high after a trend of defeating the teams they should and losing to the teams they shouldn’t.

This saw the club bogged in an identity crisis inside the top four, with oddly stabilised fans almost becoming accustomed to a day-to-day life without the threat of a free-wheeling, lime-tinged cardiac arrest.

It was a far cry from recent years, when psychologists officially certified the Raiders as an emotion, resulting in Canberra Stadium being configured so it could easily bend into the foetal position.

The club’s worrying predicament was apparent early in the season, with their campaign immediately unraveling in Round 1 when they ably handled the Titans.

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When Stuart’s side travelled north and calmly closed out a traditionally uneasy 18-point lead without imploding, the rugby league community sensed there was something seriously amiss.

By Round 5, the club had produced its best defensive start to a season since 1990. They were measured, reliable, and frankly, totally off-brand and somewhat offensive.

While the newfound identity may have provided a rare glimpse of normality for long-suffering rusted-ons, it has done nothing for their most ardent fans: the neutrals.

This beige, percentage game has been snubbed as we protest loudly for a return to their good old days, where blowing a lead after full time or hiring Dave Taylor was tame compared to drink driving and calling the police from your car to report yourself.

Luckily, three losses on the trot and a plague of injuries could mean a return of rugby league’s version of chasing a nuclear-grade curry with a Coke and Mentos.

While erratic Canberra’s resurrection means kicking over the defibrillator for their fans, it also indicates we are closer than ever to entertaining displays of volatility such as the coach kicking something plastic and inert, like Aidan Sezer.

Aidan Sezer Canberra Raiders NRL Rugby League 2016

(AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

On the other hand, perhaps this vintage has actually turned the corner, the one they’ve been bending around since 1995?

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While morale has never really been an issue, there is something nauseatingly harmonious about the team this year.

Even a young man in Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad went to odd lengths to admit he is immensely enjoying his time living in the city, and it wasn’t even said at gunpoint.

Add to this Stuart’s streamlined pack, featuring 68 per cent more bite and bad teeth after recruiting half of England to replace Shannon Boyd, who now makes 83 metres a week in a different state.

This pivot to the Mother Country has been a tactical masterstroke by Stuart, not only because John Bateman is grouse, but because it exploits cheap trade before crook import laws take effect post-Brexit – and, like the experts have always said, there’s nothing to soothe another wasted season quite like avoiding international trade tariffs.

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Finally, you can never write off a side ably shepherded by beloved stalwart Jarrod Croker.

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They say the rock-solid centre is the perfect club man, not because he bleeds lime, but because he’s never in Origin contention.

With the fort being held by Canberra’s own Yahoo of centres – serviceable, effective, but never used – maybe the Nation’s Capital can again be a place visiting teams dread, despite being a haven of fireworks and cannabis.

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