This week sees the mighty Raiders resting up for a well-earned bye.
It gives our boys a chance to recuperate, sort out those niggles, and it give the fans a chance to assess where our season sits in 2016.
After 14 rounds, the Raiders are positioned at an admirable 7th on the competition ladder (6th once Parramatta’s penalties kick in) on 15 points.
It’s probably a fair assessment of the season as our boys have mixed some fantastic wins, with some unfortunate losses along the way.
Hopefully we won’t be looking back at a few of those losses and wondering what if.
Some of those lowlights include a draw against the struggling Knights, a last minute loss to the Titans, a one point loss to the Panthers, the pain of the Dragons loss, and the blowouts of the Eels and Sharks games.
Highlights include the round 1 grinding win against the Panthers, the gritty one point early season win against the Roosters, beating the Bulldogs both in Canberra and at their spiritual home of Belmore, the round 8 thrashing of the Tigers, and the drought breaking win against the now firing Warriors in New Zealand.
Individually, there have been some absolute standouts in this Raiders side.
Helping guide the ship around, Josh Hodgson’s form has been nothing short of outstanding. The direction he provides around the ruck is up there with the best in the game and his position in the Dally M votes illustrates that. He’s been well supported in the forward pack by a firing Josh Papalii, the reliable Elliot Whitehead, and the ongoing leadership of Sia Soliola. Recent recruit Junior Paulo will continue to add more starch to this impressive pack.
In the backline, Austin and Sezer have been continuing to improve their combination, but the real stars of the show have without doubt been the combination of Joseph Leilua and Jordan Rapana.
Otherwise known as Leipana in some circles, these two have been running rings around their opposition teams in 2016, with both unlucky to miss rep honours for both NSW and New Zealand respectively. No doubt, they’ll have their chances soon enough.
Combing these individual performances with whole team performances is what our boys should be looking for.
The Raiders have shown in patches they can beat any side in their day. The key as always will be consistency and playing for 80 minutes.
If they can do this, they’ll not only be playing finals footy, they’ll be a chance of making some real inroads in the series.
The next few games are also really important. It’s vital to pick up wins against the Titans and Knights, as after that, we face a real litmus test, with four of the next six games being played against top eight sides, and one of those six games is against the ninth placed Warriors.
A tough period to say the least, but one we’re more than capable of conquering.
So rest up Raiders fans and get excited for the run home. It should be a cracking top 8 race.