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Likely squad: Clinton Schifcofske, Marshall Chalk, Craig Frawley, Jermaine Ale, Phil Graham, Jason Smith, Todd Carney, Michael Weyman, Simon Woolford, Troy Thompson, Alan Tongue, Josh Miller, Jason Croker,
Interchange: Dane Tilse, Tom Learoyd-Lars, Andrew Lomu, Lincoln Withers
Despite Canberra not having the best team in the competition on paper they still have quality players in key positions. Schifcofske, Smith, Woolford and rising star Todd Carney all provide a solid nucleus for the Raiders to work with and if they can work with the speed in the backline it could push the Raiders.
They have a young forward pack. Michael Weyman is one of the better junior props going around and while being injury-plagued, has the talent to do anything. Dane Tilse has taken Canberra?s lifeline and the once Australian Schoolboy will be looking to put his name in the press for positive reasons. New recruit Learoyd-Lars comes to the club with huge raps and hopefully will realise his unlimited potential.
Canberra possesses a speedy backline which could turn it on against any backline in the competition. Former Roosters junior Jermaine Ale debuted this year for the Green Machine however was dropped soon after. Hopefully this season he gets his chance. Chalk and Graham on the wings top off the backline as both are genuine speedsters.
Relying on Jason Smith. He is as vital to Canberra as Johns is to Newcastle. Without him Canberra can go nowhere. Todd Carney is potentially a great organiser, but so far in his short career he has not shown these skills. If Smith was to suffer an injury, it would put immense pressure on the young man.
The Raiders? defence in the backline is looking shaky. Craig Frawley and Jermaine Ale aren?t noted defenders while Chalk and Graham aren?t big on tackling either. Luckily they have one of the better defensive fullbacks in the game. However, he?s probably going to have to work overtime this season.
Matthew Elliot?s coaching strategy is also a weakness. His inability to pick the correct players and promote younger players with promise really hinders the club?s development. It took only till the end of last season for Carney to have a permanent place in the team. He was ready in 2004, but Elliot?s refusal to play him put Carney back 2 years in his progression. Hopefully he doesn?t do the same with promising youngsters Willie Raston, Alan Rothery and also William Zillman.
The Raiders also have a lack of depth in their playing ranks. A lot of that is due to players not getting the opportunity to play first grade and being stuck in premier league. The Raiders, however, were forced to blood a lot of players in 2005 and only a handful seemed up to the task.
One to Watch:
Queensland under 19?s representative William Zillman is one to watch out for in the Raiders? ranks this season. The 20-year-old starred in Premier League in 2005 both through scoring tries and goal kicking at a high percentage. His efforts were rewarded with a Queensland birth, where the super talented five-eighth was up against team-mate Todd Carney, selected for NSW.
Zillman was a shining light in the match. His pairing with Rugby Union convert Berrick Barnes was the great feature of the game. Something that will go a long way for Zillman?s progression in first grade is his versatility. Whether he is playing halfback, five-eighth, centre or fullback, he has the ability to star and the switch will not hinder his impact on the game.
While Zillman may have to wait in line for injuries to occur to the Raiders? ranks, when he gets his opportunity he will succeed and prove to us all what a quality player he is.
Gains and Losses:
Gains: Tom Learoyd-Lars, Trevor Thurling, Dane Tilse.
Losses: Matt Adamson, Ian Hindmarsh, Michael Robertson, Ben Cross, Ryan O'Hara, Michael Howell, Damon Alley-Tovio.
I don?t believe the Raiders have what it takes to challenge for the title this season. I believe, however, if Jason Smith remains fit and healthy, then they may be able to sneak into the 8. However, one injury to Jason Smith and it will be spoon territory for the Green Machine. Their young forwards need to step up and set a platform and their young backs need to remain fit and use their agility and speed if they are to have any success in 2006.
My tip ? Between 8th-15th ? I think 13th