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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Raiders vs Eels: 5 talking points

The Canberra Raiders suffered a dismal 35-10 loss to the Parramatta Eels left coach Ricky Stuart “embarrassed”. Here are five talking points out of the match.

Ricky’s post-game comments

As you would expect after a loss like that, Raiders coach Stuart had some harsh words for his side after the game.

He said that the team “embarrassed” themselves in front of a 20,089 strong home crowd but it was his comments about certain individuals letting the team down that raised the most eyebrows.

“Don’t put everybody in that category, it’s individuals leaning on others, waiting for someone else to do it,” said Stuart.

“There were individuals there who are happy putting on an NRL jumper and are thinking they’re an NRL player.

“There’s other individuals there who I feel really sorry for because they’re having a red-hot crack and they’re not getting supported.

“There’s a number of individuals who are letting the team down and once they understand the hard cold truth of it all, and or I’ve got to find someone else. Hopefully that’s it and there’s an improvement, but it’s hard to take.”

Stuart has often been full of praise for his players efforts over recent seasons, but these comments show he’s had enough.

It’s hard to know exactly which players he is talking about, but you would expect some changes to the side for next week’s clash against the Cowboys.

The Corey’s need to be considered

The club was rightly furious with both Corey Horsburgh and Corey Harawira-Naera after they were caught drink driving during the off-season. However, after serving their suspension and spending the first six weeks out of the NRL side, now is the time to put them back in.

Harawira-Naera has scored four tries in his last three games at NSW Cup level playing in the second row and could add some fire power to a stuttering Raiders attack. While Hudson Young has been solid playing on the edge, the Raiders side could be better balanced with Harawira-Naera on an edge and Young playing in the middle like he did last year. If he doesn’t slot straight into the starting side, he would be a versatile option on the bench with his ability to play second row or through the middle.

Horsburgh showed early last year that he is more than capable at NRL level and with the Raiders beaten in the middle over the past two weeks, he deserves his chance this year. His ability to offload late in the tackle is something Canberra has been lacking and he can also deliver a big shot to shift momentum.

WOLLONGONG, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 12: Corey Harawira-Naera of the Raiders is tackled during the round 18 NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Canberra Raiders at WIN Stadium on September 12, 2020 in Wollongong, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)
Corey Harawira-Naera could be a handy inclusion to the Raiders side next week. Getty

The back five

While Caleb Aekins was very good in his first outing for the club at fullback, the rest of the back five were underwhelming.

The top teams in the competition all seem to have that strike power out wide that makes defenders nervous, but Canberra don’t have that at the moment.

Lack of pace is an obvious issue with Jarrod Croker and Jordan Rapana not as quick as they once were, while Bailey Simonsson hasn’t shown much on the wing.

Sebastian Kris is one certain inclusion to the 17 next week. He deserves to start in place of Croker or Curtis Scott at centre but may just come onto the bench as cover.

As for Simonsson, if he isn’t ruled out of next week with concussion, his place in the side could come under threat due to poor form with Albert Hopoate or Semi Valemei likely replacements.

The Raiders defence and the speed of the game

The Raiders have built their game around strong defence over the past two seasons, but they are showing signs of defensive struggles early this year.

They were the third best defensive side in 2019, only conceding 30 points once on their way to a Grand Final.

In 2020, Canberra had the fourth ranked defence and conceded 30 points on just two occasions as they made a Preliminary Final.

However, just six rounds into 2021, the Raiders have given up 30 points or more three times and are ranked 10th for points against.

The 35 points they conceded against the Eels was their most since a 40-31 loss to the Panthers in round 21, 2018. The 25-point margin was also their biggest losing margin since round 20, 2018 in a 44-10 defeat to the Storm.

The NRL’s obsession to make the game as fast as possible may not be suiting the Raiders grinding style of play as they have struggled to run out games this season. It must be noted the Raiders have been at least a man down in their three losses, but injuries are part of the game and the side has not done a good job of covering those losses.

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 17: Isaiah Papali'i of the Eels celebrates with team mates after scoring a try during the round six NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the Parramatta Eels at GIO Stadium on April 17, 2021, in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Matt Blyth/Getty Images)
Isaiah Papali’i and the Eels torched the Raiders out wide all night. Getty

Outside back cover on the bench

The Raiders lack of options when losing an outside back was exposed again after Simonsson went off with an HIA.

It was the second week in a row the Raiders were forced to reshuffle the deck without a recognised outside back on the bench.

While it certainly didn’t cost them the game, it threw their right edge into disarray with Elliott Whitehead playing at centre and Curtis Scott on the wing.

Stuart admitted he made a mistake not having Kris on the bench and said he will definitely be in the 17 next week. It will most likely be at the expense of the unlucky Tom Starling who has been playing limited minutes off the bench.

Kris also provides extra flexibility with his ability to play in the second row like he did in round 3 against the Warriors.

Tomorrow will be one of the most interesting team list Tuesdays in recent memory to see what Stuart comes up with.

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