Throughout the 2020 season the Raiders had outstanding performers across the park. Whether they were international stars or rookies coming into the team, each of them played a significant role in the season just gone.
In this series, we’ll look at each position and each of the players who played there for the Green Machine as we review the 2020 season.
This time we’re taking a look at the wingers.
Bailey Simonsson – five games, two tries
Nick Cotric – 23 games, 14 tries
Jordan Rapana – nine games, two tries
Semi Valemei – 10 games, four tries
Bailey Simonsson and Nick Cotric started the season on the wings for the Raiders and were impressive in the first two rounds. Simonsson didn’t take long to score his first try of the year after he earned a place in the starting side, while Cotric was busting tackles at will.
When the NRL resumed after the lockdown, the Raiders were given a boost when Jordan Rapana re-joined the side after his stint playing rugby union in Japan was cut short.
The veteran returned to the NRL in style as he scored a try in his comeback game against Melbourne.
Rapana and Simonsson rotated duties on the wing in the early stages of the season as the player who missed out on the starting spot was generally used from the interchange.
Simonsson’s form continued to build impressively, including an outstanding performance against the Dragons in round eight but unfortunately sustained a season-ending shoulder injury the following week.
The injury saw Rapana start on the wing in round 10 against the Roosters but an injury to Michael Oldfield midway through the game saw Rapana shifted to centre and Semi Valemei made his debut on the wing.
The Fijian winger started the following two matches but Rapana moved there once Curtis Scott and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad returned from their respective injuries.
With the Raiders attack starting to click, Jordan Rapana scored a memorable try on his birthday against the Broncos while Nick Cotric scored three tries in three matches.
Scott suffered another injury against the Bulldogs in round 16, which saw Rapana move to the centres for the remainder of the season and Valemei secure a place on the wing.
The rookie winger grew in confidence in each game, as he scored a further three tries and Nick Cotric scored a further four.
The Big Matches
Round 3 – Raiders 22 d Storm 6
As the season began after the restart, the Raiders were looking to continue their impressive form that was shown in the opening two rounds.
However, the Raiders had a late change after Bailey Simonsson was ruled out of the match due to a minor leg infection.
Having returned from Japan due to COVID-19, Jordan Rapana stepped up and didn’t miss a beat as he scored in the third minute of his return.
Cotric scored ten minutes later when he latched on to a George Williams cut out pass and then later in the match combined brilliantly with Curtis Scott to set up a try for Joe Tapine.
As the Raiders secured a memorable win against the eventual premiers, Rapana led the way with 167 running metres.
Round 8 – Raiders 22 d Dragons 16
After playing home games at an empty Campbelltown Stadium, the Raiders’ return to GIO Stadium in front of fans was memorable, especially for the two wingers.
Nick Cotric ensured that the Raiders started the game in the right fashion, beating both Lomax and Dufty to score the first try for the evening.
Simonsson showcased his athleticism ten minutes later as he out-jumped Ravalawa and had the presence of mind to twist his body and ground the ball as Clune tried to wrap him up in a tackle.
Both Simonsson and Cotric both ran well over 100 meters, with Simonsson also notching up 60 post-contact metres.
Round 19 – Raiders 26 d Warriors 14
As the Raiders remained in the hunt for a top four finish, the side looked to claim a win against the Warriors in the final home game of the regular season.
However, the game wasn’t going to plan as the Warriors gained an early lead and Jack Wighton was sent to the sin bin.
Enter Semi Valemei.
As the Warriors tried to make the numerical advantage count, Valemei was the first to react to a stray offload as he ran the length of the field to score.
Holding a slender two point lead at the break, Valemei gave the Raiders some breathing space as he latched onto an around the back pass from Croker. The Fijian proved too strong for Hiku and Nikorima as he powered his way to the try line.