Almanac Rugby League – NRL Round 5: Canberra v Roosters – The Green Redemption

For me, watching the Raiders play is an experience fraught with a range of emotions, varying from ecstasy to rage to disappointment to soul-crushing despondence. I have told many people that when I die the autopsy will read “Cause of Death: The Canberra Raiders”.  This week against the Roosters I expected nothing different.

Despite the dour loss against Newcastle last week, like the idiotic optimist I am I had a little bit of hope that the Raiders could halt a red-hot Easts side who hadn’t conceded a point in two weeks. The great thing about sports is that even when your team has hit it’s lowest point, even when the stars have left and the coach is rotten, you can still go into a game with a shred of hope that today is the day they will turn it all around.

But it’s like Red said in the Shawshank Redemption “Hope is a dangerous thing”, and from the looks of things the Raiders won’t escape from prison and end up on the sunny shores of Zihuatanejo. The start is promising, but the attack is pedestrian, and it comes as no surprise to me when James Maloney runs a nice line off Jake Friend and scores the opening points. When Michael Oldfield crosses soon after I’m losing faith. Mitchell Aubusson wins the race to a Mitchell Pearce kick and I’ve abandoned a sinking ship. They’ve lost, they’re gone, and why do I bother supporting this band of unskilled fools? Every week it’s the same, they show no improvement, Tilse is too slow, Williams is too green, Sandor Earl is too Sandor Earl-like, Furner won’t drop any of them…it’s the usual tirade.

It’s 16-0 at oranges, and the banal Ben Ikin suggests that the Roosters might hold the Raiders scoreless again, and I hope Matt Russell decks him for suggesting such an insulting notion. He does not. If I was forced to spend two hours with Ben Ikin I don’t think I could resist the temptation to put one on his chin.

The second half starts, and the Raiders have a good first set which culminates in Anthony Minichello spilling a towering Reece Robinson kick. It’s a new team in the second half, powerful and controlled. After some sustained pressure, Josh McCrone (who looks good playing at hooker) shoots a pass out to Jarrod Croker on the last tackle. Croker flicks a brilliant no look pass to Edrick Lee, and he falls over untouched. It’s a pretty play, but I’m not fooled. Soon the Roosters will score again, and it’ll be the end.

But it’s not. Sam Williams straightens off his left foot and pushes through some feeble Easts tacklers, and as quick as you like it’s 16-12. The Raiders are grimly defending their line, and a deflected pass hits the deck. Some ex-union player, some guy named Williams, he picks it up and cruises through some green jerseys who don’t even look like making it happen. He pops a pass and Minichello, the oldest of the old men, scoops it off his bootlaces to score. Having just clambered back on the ship, it’s started sinking again.

But this time they refuse to die. Williams hoists up a kick, and Sandor Earl, all ink and Instagram selfies, flies above the pack and scores. Even now, I have no faith. Canberra just doesn’t win games like this.

The end gets closer, and it’s anyone’s game says Ben Ikin. Canberra are powerful in defense, sticking it to the Tricolours. Josh Papalii rocks some Bondi Boy with a bone rattler. Every time SBW runs it little Jarrod Croker, who has “defensive issues” in the same way North Korea has “anger issues” hangs onto him for dear life.

As the clock winds down, Sam Williams probes down the left throws a squirming, wretched pass that looks destined for the touchline But Edrick Lee is there. He cuts infield, hears a shout from the outside and flings it to Croker, and I can’t believe it even as it happens, but Croker touches down.

Croker can certainly kick, but all I can think of is a penalty he missed against the Tigers in a semi-final a few seasons back. It was from a similar spot. The stage isn’t as grand, but it’s a pressure kick in every sense of the word. It’s his 100th game in the Green. The rugby league gods love a narrative; please don’t begrudge me this one.

The kick is magnificent. The Raiders win. Never in doubt really.

Nathan Hindmarsh Medal

3 – Jarrod Croker

2 – Sam William

1 – Shaun Fensom


About Nick Campton

A young sportswriter trying to get his foot in the door. Do me a solid and check out my collection of ramblings

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