Tongue and Cheek
CHEEK: Tonguey, will the Josh Dugan experiment at five-eighth work or will it blow up in David Furner’s face like a Year 6 chemistry experiment?
TONGUE: I like it. Josh Dugan has had the move in the back of his mind for a while and has put up his hand for the job. The big question is how long will it take to click. It might be a work in progress for a few weeks, which is time the Raiders don’t really have. But in the modern game, the way a fullback injects himself into play, they’re almost like an extra ball-playing half anyway. Dugan often comes into the front line of attack and he does a lot of kicking in general play, too. He obviously won’t make as many runs as he does from fullback, but he’ll touch the ball a lot more often, so his influence can be just as strong. He’ll also need to make a lot more tackles, about 25 to 30. The Tigers will no doubt try and target him, but there’s a risk they’ll bog down their own attack with that game plan.
CHEEK: Did the Raiders wait too long to make the move then?
TONGUE: No, I really rate Sam Williams and they had to give him first shot in the halves when Terry Campese went down injured. Sam’s a bit down on confidence, but he deserved his chance. The other thing I like about Dugan’s move to five-eighth is that it allows Reece Robinson to stay at fullback. Reece has struggled to make an impact on the wing, but he’s been a completely different player at fullback. It also wouldn’t surprise me to see Reece get a chance in the Raiders’ halves at some stage, even tonight. Like Dugan, he played the majority of his junior career in the halves and he’s got all the skills – his passing game both sides is spot-on. I think the Raiders will run out with the team they’ve named, but it’ll be interesting to see if that team changes as the game unfolds. You’ve also got Blake Ferguson named at centre and Edrick Lee on the wing – both can play in either position. There’s a number of options the Raiders could use.
CHEEK: So the secret to Jumpin’ Jack Wighton’s incredible vertical leap has been revealed – secret sessions on his backyard trampoline!
TONGUE: Yeah, I don’t think Raiders coach David Furner would be over the moon with that injury given the injury list they already have. But what can you do, it’s a freak accident. You can’t wrap players up in cotton wool 24-7. It’s a shame Jack looks like missing the rest of the season because he’s already shown in a handful of NRL performances this year that he’s got a bright future. He’s got great utility value, he’s only going to get bigger, stronger and faster. You can see why the Raiders want to lock him up beyond next season.
CHEEK: The Raiders had their best win of the season against the Tigers at Campbelltown in round four, but that was with Terry Campese firing and Robbie Farah out. Different prospect tonight?
TONGUE: It’s totally different. Robbie Farah’s back to his best and was a standout for the Blues in Origin I. The Tigers are shooting for six straight wins, but I think a lot of that momentum is on the back of their props Aaron Woods and Keith Galloway. The Tigers were also missing Galloway early in the year and I think his go-forward has been a big factor in their turnaround. If the Raiders can stop that go-forward of the Tigers’ pack, then it limits the time Farah and Benji Marshall have to do their magic. I still don’t think the Tigers have reached the peak that everyone was predicting in the pre-season, but teams would definitely be looking over the shoulders at the Tigers right now. They’re starting to build in confidence.
CHEEK: The Raiders ambushed the Tigers last time by attacking them out wide. Will it work again?
TONGUE: The Tigers are usually a side that beats you with their lateral movement and attacking flair, they’re so hard to defend against. But in round four it was almost like the Raiders beat the Tigers at their own game. The Tigers will be ready for that this time and with all the personnel changes the Raiders have had, I’m not sure they’ll be willing to play that expansive style again tonight. They may prefer to play within their shell and build into the game.