And so it’s two more sleeps of fevered dreams before the plucky Green Machine of hope and light and sweet green milky goodness take on the evil billionaire poseurs, the Roosters of the East, and it’s getting a little hot in here, why don’t you take off all your clothes.
Because you could be arrested? Please! If the Raiders win, the entire city of Canberra, all 450,000 or so, will nude up and… no they won’t.
But they will be quite happy. Because it will be really, really good.
Good? How about the old Viking horn going up the Hume back of a truck? Quality comedy.
But this is heller-serious, people. It’s the grand final! First one for the footy club in 25 freakin years when we had the best team there’s ever been. One of ‘em, anyway.
The 1994 Raiders were the end of the Mal dynasty. And where Mal went Queenslanders followed. Throw in the best things out of Queanbeyan, Junee and Belconnen since David Campese, Ray Warren and the 333 bus, and you had a hot, crack squadron. A hit squadron.
You had Raiders 36 defeated Bulldogs 12. And you could, in your best Ray Warren voice, do yourself a favour and have a listen to a podcast I knocked out this week with Rabs’ commentary overlaid on Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk.
Yes, this is shameless plug for it. But even if you don’t listen to the gibber in the middle, have a crack at Rabs’ call. He is the king. It is absolute solid gold bullion of Cleopatra’s ancient Egypt.
Nervous? Me? Oh, yeah nah! Maybe a bit. Only to the point of mild insanity. Because dear sweet Beelzebub, sports fans, this is not normal. Against Souths the other night you rode every little play and decision and every one of Damien Cook’s passes was “forward!” and can’t someone kneecap that bastard Cody Walker?
And so on. And this Sunday against the dastardly Chooks it will be more of the same. The Chooks have 17 stars. They’re the best. If we beat ‘em, it’s going to be… I dunno.
Tops. Let’s go with tops.
A winner? Objectively? This weekend? As a wise man once said “yeah nah”.
But the Roosters, of course. On paper, on form, on most of the pertinent match markers are clearly the better team.
They were better than Storm, who were the runaway minor premiers. Easts’ biggest decision is who to play of their two excellent hookers – Sam Verrills, Jake Friend or both.
So let’s line up these men, for they are but men, head to butting head.
Starting up front of course, there’s the mighty forward-leaning absolute beast-master that is Kiwi international enforcer Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, whose duel with Canberra’s man-of-the-moment Josh Papalii will be a good start on the demolition of Homebush.
Advantage? Call it a tie. Different sorts of props. Both capable of storming hard charges. JWH the more intimidating, J-Pap the more dangerous runner and hit-man.
Edge forwards? I’m leaning to Elliott Whitehead and John Bateman over Boyd Cordner and Vic Radley. Though, sweet jeez, there’s not much in it. Probably the Poms for attack, the Aussies for D, a microcosm of the Super League and NRL competitions.
Yet Canberra gets my nod on the back of Bateman, who owns a dash of crazy. As Tony Montana said, “The eyes, Chico. They never lie.” And Bateman’s eyes tell this truth: the man is mad as a cut brown snake. He’s competitive to the point of madness. He has two things: he doesn’t care and he believes. He owns a grubber and chase. No-one’s had that one of them since Ginger Meggs in 1989.
Quick shout-out to the country of England, which is proving a top font for Canberra. It’s like New Queanbeyan. And there’s more coming – George Williams of Wigan will likely replace the excellent Aidan Sezer, who’s read the hieroglyphs upon Cleopatra’s hidden chamber (or something, I dunno, writing on the wall, blah blah) and is off to, of all places, England.
Go well, Aidan Sezer. One more win and they’ll be reading about you in 3000 years. Sezer and Cleopatra. Something.
Josh Hodgson! The best of the Poms is the club’s co-captain and hooker. Jarrod Croker is an undisputed champion fellow and top player, and I really hope he can kick some goals, because it worries me he hasn’t been. I think it’s in his head. The eyes, Chico, and all that.
But when the Raiders were getting towelled up in the last couple of years, when they were holding out for a hero, it was like Croker was too far out there in the centres to affect the team, to lift ‘em.
Hodgson is in the thick of it all. And Ricky Stuart made him co-captain. Then Bateman lobs, and boom – Canberra’s defence has gone gangbusters. Defence! They’re like a swarming mob of Pommy bouncers. Trent Robinson reckons his defensive line is a “living organism”, like a fat mass of ectoplasm with arms and legs enveloping little chunks of invading bacteria.
And a journo in my line of gibber-jabber can respect that.
Anyway, Hodgson is with Cook and Cam Smith the best No. 9 in the game and brings more to the party than Friend and Verrils, attack and defence and leadership, and I’m tipping advantage Machine there.
Bench? Chooks. Nat Butcher and Angus Chrichton do shade Emri Guler and Corey Horsburgh, good as those worthies are. Everyone’s bringing different light and shade to the party. But the Roosters extra four will more seamlessly replace and replicate the robotic bash-a-thon of their colleagues.
Mitch Aubusson is like a relentless blue heeler rounding up mangy steers. He’ll do whatever Robinson says, without fear, earnest, like a child soldier.
Halves? Chooks again, though if Luke Keary doesn’t play or limps around like a hobo who’s wandered by mistake into the Helsinki Marathon, it’s Raiders.
Keary was Churchill Medallist last year. He won’t have forgotten that, nor how to play. Bateman and the Pommy bash brothers will be testing his fitness to play.
Jack Wighton! The man is storming around, Laurie Daley redux. Big body, lot of game. He can bust you with power, pace. He’s sort of like Latrell Mitchell. Sort of. But he’ll play State of Origin in the No. 6 and that’s the mark of a top six. Love watching him play.
Our Aidan Sezer remains underrated and is off to England. And head to head with Cooper Cronk, and, well, good-sized advantage Chooksters.
Because Cronk is the Chooks ignition. He turns the engine on. He can own games of footy. It doesn’t look like he’s lost any toughness or nous, the bastard. Even pace. Cronk throws his forwards at the line like sides of beef. Short passes, time after time, the right play at the right time.
Cronk will be 36 in December. He’s in the conversation among the best halves we’ve had. You know the conversation. Yes, that conversation.
Centres? Roosters. Joey Manu has been going gangbusters and Latrell is capable of channelling Latrell.
Raiders bopper Joey Leilua is a penalty or spectacular try waiting to happen. I love the bloke. But he frightens me more than meningitis.
Maybe not that much. But jeez! Please don’t do anything stupid, Joey, okay? Channel the crazy.
Croker? Love the bloke like my first GI Joe doll. But, yes, goal kicking worries me. He was an 85 per center. Be 75 now. He’s missing the ones he’d get. Says he’s hitting them good. So there is that. But it’s likely going to be close on Sunday. Little things, big things come.
So Chooks in the centres.
Wingmen! Just giving it to Raiders. Nick Cotric and Jordan Rapana break a lot of tackles and make the Raiders important, strong metres out of the danger. They threaten out wide as all the good wing men do, and bring a little bit of X factor. Rapana particularly.
Brett Morris is a Test player and been brilliant and piss-fast for a generation. He’s tough. Smart. All footy player.
Daniel Tupou is probably the best aerial man in the game.
So there’s not much in it. But Raiders get my chocolate Monte.
At fullback it’s clearly advantage Raiders because the $130,000 wonder that is Charnze Nicol-Klokstad will fly over… yeah nah. Jimmy Tedesco is the best player in the game, it’s official. He’s won every gong there is and you don’t need to read here how good he is, you need but watch. Brilliant player, a superstar, and one would never condone violence, but if Leilua is going to do one thing ‘stupid’ on Sunday, he could wear Mal Meninga’s forearm guard and use it on Jimmy as Mal used his on Baa Lamb, like an SS Jumbo on a grapefruit.
Not that bad. Say no to violence, kids. Violence is bad, mmkay?
You get what I mean. Tedesco is almost too good.
As are the Roosters.
Raiders by seven. Let it be, please, Dear Lord Mr Lillee. I have been good.