Canberra Raiders' stability could lead to NRL finals return
Advertisement

Canberra Raiders' stability could lead to NRL finals return

A cohesion specialist who has worked with the all-conquering Queensland Maroons says last season's failure to make the NRL finals could be a one-off and their stability could help them bounce straight back.

Simon Strachan founded Gain Line Analytics with former Wallabies and ACT Brumbies prop Ben Darwin and their work centres around cohesion and how that can help clubs build their rosters.

Gain Line Analytics co-founder Simon Strachan says the Raiders' 2017 could be an outlier.

Gain Line Analytics co-founder Simon Strachan says the Raiders' 2017 could be an outlier.Credit:Stefan Postles

He's had a couple of conversations with the Raiders and has worked with other NRL, Super Rugby and English soccer clubs as well.

After a barnstorming 2016 when they finished second in the regular season, the Raiders slipped down to 10th last year to miss the finals.

Advertisement

With the exception of injured England hooker Josh Hodgson (knee), they will have largely the same line-up again this season - including the spine of halves partners Aidan Sezer and Blake Austin, and fullback Jack Wighton.

​That trio have been working together for the last two NRL campaigns.

The Raiders also boast plenty of off-field stability, with coach Ricky Stuart going into his fifth season in charge of the Green Machine and signed on until the end of 2020.

Strachan said that stability flew in the face of a lot of NRL clubs and could on its own help them climb back up the ladder.

He said if it wasn't for the Hodgson injury the Raiders would have been one of only two spines in the NRL to be the same as last year.

"Potentially last year was an outlier and the positive is they don't seem to have blinked. Which is what a lot of other clubs do," he said.

"That's to their advantage. One thing by remaining stable, it's not necessarily a question of whether the Raiders are going to improve because sometimes that doesn't matter, it's all the other clubs dropping around them.

"So remaining stable is a positive thing in the NRL because there's so much movement that other club's are going to drop."

Strachan said while stability in the short-term was a positive, how they managed that over the long-term was "critical for long-term performance".

He said NRL experience on its own wasn't the biggest factor, but rather experience of playing together - pointing to the recently broken up Melbourne Storm three amigos of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater, who had all played together since under-19s.

It was a situation all clubs had the opportunity to replicate.

"You can create that scenario. You can recruit in a certain way that creates that scenario. It seems logical, but 95 per cent of professional sports teams choose the skills path," Strachan said.

He said one area the Raiders needed to work on was their defence.

The Raiders conceded the seventh most points in the NRL last - counteracting the fact they scored the third highest amount of points.

But again, having that stable roster would allow them to "compare apples with apples".

"They've got a bit of work to understand why their defence was struggling, and whether or not that was an outlier or whether that was something inherent in their coaching," Strachan said.

"But they're the rugby league coaches, that's something they can work out. Because they've got stability they can make those decisions."

Raiders captain Jarrod Croker added the return of half Sam Williams not only added some depth, but he's a familiar face in Canberra having played 66 NRL games for the club as well.

"We've said for the last couple of years now we've got the same squad going forward for the next few seasons and that can only benefit us," Croker said.

"The way we've been training so far out there, the boys are working really well together."

David Polkinghorne covers the Canberra Raiders, local rugby league, Canberra Cavalry, racing and cycling, along with every other sport, for The Canberra Times.

Most Viewed in Sport

Loading
Advertisement