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Preview 2012: Canberra Raiders
Gains: Shaun Berrigan (Warriors), Malcolm Congoo (Sunshine Coast).
Losses: Alan Tongue (Retirement), Daniel Vidot (Dragons), Josh Miller (Dragons), Danny Galea (Panthers), Nick Skinner (Sea Eagles), Matt Orford (released), David Milne (Mackay), James Stuart (Burleigh).
Re-signed: Joe Picker, Tom Learoyhd Lahrs, Bronson Harrison, Dane Tilse, David Shillington, Shaun Fensom, Mark Nicholls, Glen Buttriss, Sam Williams, Blake Ferguson.
2012 Coach: David Furner
First 5 Rounds: Storm (H), Titans (A), Roosters (A), Tigers (A), Cowboys (H)
The Canberra Raiders will be hoping to get things back on track in 2012 after failing to leave a notable impression on the competition last season. The 2010 season saw the Raiders fight their way into the top eight and come away with some spectacular performances to boot. Unluckily for the Raiders, they lost the services of Terry Campese in the dying minutes of the season and tragically learnt that their skipper would be sitting on the sidelines for the entire following year. To combat this devastating news, the Raiders acquired the services of former ace Storm and Manly halfback Matt Orford. Orford returned to the NRL after playing in the English Super League and many critics within the game questioned if he still had the ability to play at the highest level in the NRL. Unfortunately for Orford and the Raiders he did not seem to be able to perform back in Australia. The 2011 season saw the Raiders trial various options in the halves including players Josh McCrone and Sam Williams. Towards the end of the season both players showed what they were capable of and both equally took the chance handed to them by David Furner.
This season the Raiders will be hoping to perform more consistently than the year before. The Raiders only managed six wins in 2011 and for them to have any chance at making the top eight they must get off to a better start to the season. Last year the Raiders lost 8 out of their first 10 matches and this no doubt had a negative affect on the team’s confidence. The return of Terry Campese should definitely lift the game of the Canberra side. Campese will hope to ignite the same form which saw him lead the Canberra side to a place in the play offs. Before his injury, Campese was touted as a definite Origin contender and as he returns to his on-field best the Canberra faithful will be eager to see their captain back at his prime. Both McCrone and Williams received plenty of playing experience in 2011 so whoever retains the job this year will be in good standing to help guide the Raiders to victory.
The loss of Alan Tongue will certainly hurt the Raiders in the middle of the park. Tongue was a solid player all over the field and his service from dummy half will be hard to replace. Daniel Vidot and Josh Miller will also be handy pickups for the Dragons however, these two losses should not provide to be as substantial. The Raiders have plenty of young guns in these positions who are ready to take their careers to the next level. Drury Low will be looking to cement his place in the NRL side and if his Toyota Cup form is anything to go by, as well as the limited display of talent we have seen in the top grade, then Low is sure set to score plenty of tries. Low provides a real sense of excitement for the Raiders and if he is able to build a combination with Campese, we tip he will be in for quite a big year. Shaun Berrigan will also bring some experience and leadership to the side and is a very reliable player who will be able to fill some of the void left behind by the departure of Tounge.
Why they will win it: The formidable forward pack the Raiders boast is envied by many within the NRL. The sheer size and power at the Raiders disposal should see them make plenty of inroads in the competition. It must be said however, last year the Raiders failed to make any sort of impact down the middle of the field. The team averaged 1270 metres per game and ranked the worst in the NRL. This is quite an alarming statistic considering the firepower the Raiders have in their stocks. If the return of Terry Campese is able to help guide the team’s big players around the park then there is certainly no saying how far the team could go. A forward pack with the names of Shaun Fensom, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, David Shillington, Dane Tilse, Bronson Harrison and Trevor Thurling will have many teams reeling in 2012 if they are able to all lift their games.
Why they won’t: There are two reasons why the Raiders will not win the competition in 2012. The first reason is dependent on whether they are able to tighten their defence in 2012. The Raiders conceded 26 points per game on average and missed 37.4 tackles per game. If they are unable to rectify these defensive deficiencies then simply put, they will be playing from behind all year. Also, while the return of Terry Campese is of course a positive, if the Raiders’ halves options are unable to find rhythm as was the case last year, they will definitely struggle in the tight matches.