Canberra Raiders will be aware of the ‘second-season syndrome’ as they head into 2020 after such an outstanding year last year.
They came so close to winning the Grand Final against Sydney Roosters, led by their English contingent.
And that group of Englishmen has swelled with the addition of George Williams in the halves for the Raiders. Williams has joined the club from Wigan and will be looking to strike up a quick partnership with Clive Churchill Medal winner Jack Wighton. Both are strong runners of the ball but Williams will be relied upon to organise and showcase his excellent short kicking game.
The Raiders’ backline is young with some experience thrown in, in the form of captain and underrated star centre Jarrod Croker. Curtis Scott has joined the club from Melbourne Storm while wingers Nick Cotric and Bailey Simonsson had excellent years last year. The partnership of Jordan Rapana and Joey Leilua has broken apart with the former heading to rugby union and Leilua to Wests Tigers.
The pack is very much as was. Ryan Sutton will be looking to break into the side on a regular basis after a promising first season in the NRL while John Bateman and Elliott Whitehead will be hoping to continue to be key for the club. Josh Papalii had a superb year for the Raiders at prop last year and will be the star man in Canberra’s go-forward.
Coach: Ricky Stuart
Ricky Stuart (above) has been in charge of Canberra Raiders since 2014 and in that time, he’s turned them into a Premiership challenging team.
The Raiders made their first Grand Final appearance in 25 years last year when they lost to Sydney Roosters.
Stuart has been coaching in the NRL since 2002 when he took charge of Sydney Roosters. Cronulla Sharks and Parramatta Eels also employed his services before he joined the Raiders.
Star Player: John Bateman
There were plenty of players that helped the Raiders make the Grand Final last year but perhaps none more so than their new second row forward.
John Bateman (pictured, top) wasn’t too well known down under when he signed for Canberra after winning the Grand Final in 2018 with Wigan in Super League but he finished the year winning the NRL’s second-row forward of the year award.
This second year will be the making of Bateman. Every club knows how dangerous he is now and will have special plans in place to stop the English player dominating games in the same way he did last year.
Rugby League World Predicts: 6th
First published in Rugby League World, Issue 467 (March 2020)