It’s that time of the year again where Raiders fans across the country gather together to discuss their ideas for the best possible line-up for the upcoming season and as such, Raiders.com.au thought we would assist you all by providing a descriptive list of contenders for each position.
The entire NRL squad will have two opportunities to showcase their wares leading into the club’s first match of the 2015 season on Sunday the 8th of March against the Cronulla Sharks at Remondis Stadium.
The first full-format trial for the year kicks off on the 7th of February against the Melbourne Storm in Griffith followed by the ‘Return to Seiffert’ trial against the Newcastle Knights on the 21st of February.
These trials will of course be preceded by the Auckland Nines Tournament which will take place from the 31st of January through to the 1st of February.
After a productive pre-season, Coach Ricky Stuart is thoroughly looking forward to the upcoming trials as they will provide him with an invaluable building block in terms of selecting the right on-field formula.
“I’ve been very impressed with the efforts of the players during the pre-season and by the way they have handled themselves,” Stuart said.
“Their hard work, coupled with the addition of a handful of talented recruits will ensure that there is plenty of competition for spots in 2015. The upcoming trials are an opportunity for several players to push forward their claims to be a part of the top 17 for Round 1.”
Following the departure of the Anthony Milford, the fullback spot is up for grabs in 2015. Let’s take a look at the list of talented candidates competing to wear the number one jersey:
Positionally, he was chopped and changed more than Elizabeth Taylor’s list of husbands in 2014 but after finishing the year with three stellar performances at fullback (which equated to three wins) Jack Wighton has emerged as the front-runner to fill the custodian role in 2015.
One of the most enviably naturally talented athletes at the club, Wighton is capable of playing virtually any position in the backline, however the man himself has declared that he wants to settle down in one position in 2015.
Wighton not only brings a lethal running game to the position but given his ability to play in the halves, the Country Origin representative is also able to utilise his deceptive ball-playing skills and kicking ability at fullback.
Leaping high to safely defuse bombs is a necessary skill for fullbacks at the elite level however that is of little concern for Wighton given that he has demonstrated an extraordinary aerial ability right from his debut in the top grade.
CLICK HERE to watch Wighton’s season highlights and read his season review and statistics from 2014.
After a five year exile due to a Mormon mission and a brief and regrettable flirtation with rugby union, Jordan Rapana returned to the bright lights of the NRL in 2014 and earned himself a contract extension after impressing in his two appearances at fullback.
Despite a few fumbles early on, Rapana was terrific on debut in Round 22 with his enthusiasm, pace and work rate leaving Stuart no choice but to retain him at fullback for the next week’s clash against the St George Illawarra Dragons.
Unfortunately, Rapana suffered the rarity of fracturing his skull against the Dragons and the injury subsequently ended the 25 year old’s season.
The Cook Islands representative averaged the highest amount of metres per game of any Raiders player in 2014 (159.2), scored an eye-catchingly scything try and broke an incredible 23 tackles in just two appearances to emerge as a strong contender to be the Raiders fullback in 2015.
CLICK HERE to watch Rapana’s season highlights and read his season review and statistics from 2014.
Although he is yet to play first grade yet, Jack Ahearn’s name should not be forgotten when it comes to fullback contenders in 2015.
The talented local junior is an incredibly safe custodian, a dynamic ball runner and an opportunistic support player. Ahearn is also a naturally talented ball distributer and is able to play up in the front line at five-eighth with ease.
Ahearn was a junior representative star for the Raiders having represented the Australian Schoolboys, Junior Kangaroos and being named in the NYC Team of the Year.
After graduating from the NYC at the conclusion of 2012, Ahearn has been furthering his development by playing for Souths Logan Magpies in the Intrust Super Cup and Mounties in the VB NSW Cup.
Ahearn’s performances for Mounties last year saw him named in the VB NSW Cup representative team which played as a curtain raiser before Origin 3 at Suncorp Stadium.
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Author: Simon McGuinness I Twitter: @Simon_mcg1