Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
When the Canberra Raiders first joined the NSWRFL in 1982 they made history by being the first interstate club to join the New South Wales competition.
They would then make their mark in the late 1980s and early 1990s by appearing in five Grand Finals between 1987 and 1994, winning three and earning themselves the nickname “The Green Machine”, going down in history as one of the greatest Rugby League sides ever.
Unfortunately, Raiders fans have not had much to cheer about ever since, as they have largely become a club that either makes up the numbers in the bottom half of the top eight or just misses out, with their only real years of premiership contention in the NRL era coming in 2016, 2019 and 2020 when they would make the Preliminary Final on two occasions and the Grand Final once.
Canberra was billed as a contender heading into 2021 also but experienced a shocking drop in form throughout the year which saw them return to that all too familiar place of just missing the finals as they finished in tenth on the NRL ladder.
Fans of the club will be hoping for an improved effort in 2022 from the side that still has plenty of players in it from their 2019 Grand Final appearance but also has some new faces to boot.
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— Canberra Raiders (@RaidersCanberra) February 12, 2022
The Titans were happy to release halfback Jamal Fogarty at the end of the 2021 NRL season as they look to invest heavily in Toby Sexton; however, this move could come back to bite them as Fogarty showed no real signs of a significant drop in form and could now fix what could be considered Canberra’s biggest problem in Jack Wighton’s form slump.
After winning the Dally M Medal in 2020, Wighton’s form took a dive as the exit of George Williams prevented the five-eighth from playing his natural ball running game, but the acquisition of a game controlling half in Fogarty should take a lot of pressure off of Wighton, allowing him to play to his potential.
Peter Hola brings both youth and depth to the Raiders forward pack, with the 22-year-old not getting many opportunities to break into first grade while at the Cowboys, playing just 12 NRL games in three years.
He will now be in the mix with what was once considered one of the best forward packs in the NRL and look to help them achieve that status once more.
Adam Elliott’s experience will match Peter Hola’s injection of youth into Canberra’s forward pack, as the 27-year-old former Bulldog has played in over 100 NRL games and was consistently one of Canterbury Bankstown’s finest.
He will have a point to prove in 2022 after an off-field issue saw him exit the Bulldogs on a sour note.
Elliott’s ability will have certain players in Canberra’s pack previously thought to be undroppable looking over their shoulder for sure.
Former Raider Nick Cotric returns to the club with open arms after a season at the Bulldogs that did not go as planned.
Cotric was a star in Canberra, deservedly being selected to make his State of Origin debut for New South Wales in 2019 and playing in that year’s NRL Grand Final.
He will be sure to make up for the club’s loss of Bailey Simonsson to the Parramatta Eels and look to rekindle his form from when he was last a part of the Green Machine.
QUESTIONS HEADING INTO 2022
WILL JACK WIGHTON RETURN TO FORM?
Arguably the biggest question heading into next season for the Raiders is the form of their star man Jack Wighton, who is the difference-maker for this team.
When he’s on, Wighton can nearly single-handedly win games for the club, but when he isn’t playing well it impacts the rest of his side and can result in some ugly performances.
The signing of Jamal Fogarty to partner him in the halves will hopefully help, but it is now up to Wighton to make this partnership work and return to his Dally M Medal-winning form.
FINALS OR BUST FOR RICKY STUART?
Ricky Stuart is a club legend and is heading into this ninth straight season as head coach at the Canberra Raiders.
The club remained patient at first as he built his squad and nearly took them to a premiership in 2019.
However, he is now likely on thin ice after the team’s poor 2021 and reports that he had lost the locker room.
Anything other than a return to the finals in 2022 could see the Raiders look to change things up and part with Stuart after a long tenure in Canberra.
WHO STARTS AT FULLBACK?
Following Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad’s injury sustained against the Penrith Panthers in round five of the 2021 NRL season, the Raiders would have a rotating cast of fullbacks for the rest of the season and for the most part every player who stepped into the role held their own.
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— Canberra Raiders (@RaidersCanberra) February 9, 2022
Jordan Rapana experienced the biggest rise in form when wearing the number one and may have even done enough to make the position his own, with Nicoll-Klokstad being able to easily shift into the centres and youngsters Albert Hopoate and Xavier Savage still having plenty of time to grow as players before attempting to take on the position full-time.
1. Jordan Rapana
2. Nick Cotric
3. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad
4. Sebastian Kris
5. Xavier Savage
6. Jack Wighton
7. Jamal Fogarty
8. Josh Papalii
9. Josh Hodgson ©
10. Emre Guler
11. Elliott Whitehead
12. Hudson Young
13. Joseph Tapine
14. Tom Starling
15. Corey Horsburgh
16. Corey Harawira-Naera
17. Adam Elliott