Canberra Raiders paying price for mental fragility and lack of leadership

first_imgReuse this content Topics Read more comment Sportwatch: wins for Melbourne City, Rabbitohs, Sydney FC and Hawthorn Since you’re here… Aiden Sezar is a cracking player. He’s hot on his feet and has good hands. Blake Austin is a brilliant player. He can jag about and shred for Australia. In 2016 they were talking about him doing it for New South Wales.  Sam Williams is playing No. 7 and would appear the man most likely. It’s upon Croker and his halves that much blame lies. Ricky Stuart said it some years ago that a halfback, like the NFL quarterback, “owns” the result. His three play-makers now own zero-from-three. They own all of 2017, too. Something’s wrong.The loss of hooker Josh Hodgson, for sure, is a factor. There was a time it was he and Cameron Smith among the best in the ball-distributing middle channel. And when you lose a man who gets his hands on the ball more than any other player, it will affect your play- and decision-making. Hodgson returns in July, perhaps. And there’s a lot of potential losing between now and then.The coach? People who don’t think don’t rate Stuart. But to say Stuart “can’t coach” is ridiculous. He took the Roosters to three grand finals and the Sharks to the top of the pops. In 2016 the Raiders were two points and a pair of contentious decisions from beating Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park to go into the grand final.Stuart is a devoted and passionate man, and a hyper-competitive human being. He loves his players, cares for their welfare. He knows their families. And they know it. And they love him back. At the awards ceremony in 2017 there wasn’t a player who didn’t acknowledge, with warmth, the contribution of Stuart to their development as players and as men. But here’s the thing – how can one of the game’s greatest halfbacks, a peer of Allan Langer’s and Greg Alexander’s, not get into the ear of his own halfbacks and teach them to win? Stuart’s Raiders, today, are gettable. Teams don’t give up against them because they know things could well open up. The Raiders losing close ones is in the Raiders players’ heads. It’s almost a hoodoo. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. It would drive Stuart to the brink of madness.The fix? There isn’t one. Not one singular one, anyway. That their games are close suggests they’re doing plenty right. For Stuart it’ll be a case of hanging tough and waiting it out, and trusting the processes. He’ll trust his instincts, trust his players. And he’ll trust that the gods of rugby league will shine upon Canberra soon.It’s what he’s always done. And what he’s always got. Share on WhatsApp Read more Share on Twitter It’s a favourite quote of Wayne Bennett’s: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got”. It means that if you continue to do something expecting anything another result, then you are on a hiding to nothing.The Canberra Raiders don’t cop hidings. They are a competitive outfit. They are as fit, talented and tough as any in the NRL. But after conjuring a third loss in three starts, each when leading with short minutes to play – and this after nearly a dozen such losses in 2017 – supporters of the Green Machine are well entitled to ask: Why can’t they get it done? … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we made the choice to keep our reporting open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We hope you will consider supporting us today. We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Support The Guardian Canberra Raiders Share on LinkedIn Share on Messenger Australia sport It’s not about luck. Not all luck, anyway. Not any more. The Raiders were on the end of a contentious decision on Saturday when Luke Bateman was ruled to have obstructed the defence when Junior Paulo plunged over. A conversion would have made it 25-6. Instead the Warriors came back to win 20-19 with a try and two field goals in the last four minutes. Which is unlucky, for sure, but it’s also because they’re mentally weak.It comes down to leadership. The Raiders lack a Cooper Cronk, James Maloney or Cameron Smith, players who will, when their team is leading with bare minutes to play, direct the ball and their big runners to the most advantageous parts of the field. And then they will command these people upon punishment of withering scorn and/or loss of respect to grind the game out. To play smart. To win.The Raiders’ captain is Jarrod Croker, universally-regarded as a terrific bloke and team man. He’s played 216 games in the NRL by the age of 27. He presents well on television, a fine ambassador for the brand. He is the anti-Carney.But can he get it done? Is he scary enough? Does he do withering scorn? Do those who don’t adhere to the game plan fear him, even a little? Perhaps it’s simple geography. Can a man who plays in the centres, removed from the decision- and play-making “spine” of halves and hooker, get his hands on the ball enough to just get it done? Can he motivate and guide his tired forwards and fractious backline stars to play the sort of rugby league that protects little leads? Read more Guardian Australia sport newsletter: subscribe by email Share on Facebook Stop-start NRL games ‘can’t be great viewing’, says Cameron Smith Share on Pinterest Rugby league NRL Share via Emaillast_img

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