Written by Joshua Dean
An unprecedented halfback merry-go-round is in full swing in the NRL, where many class halfbacks are on the market for next season.
This is the best time possible for a club needing a halfback, which the Canberra Raiders definitely do. Their former halfback George Williams has left the club due to homesickness, so they are now desperate to find a replacement. Luckily for them, there are many options they can choose to pursue.
Widdop to the Raiders seems like a match made in heaven. The Raiders need a halfback, preferably as soon as possible, whereas Widdop wants to make a comeback to the NRL. Both parties could help each other out by making this move a reality. Widdop is already proven in the NRL and has bucketloads of experience that could push this mediocre Raiders side to the next level. The Raiders must be quick to sign him, otherwise, other suitors may pounce on a player of Widdop’s calibre.
Shaun Johnson is a world-class halfback. Whether people will admit it or not, he is a proven match-winner that can do things others simply cannot on the field. Sure, he has had some shortcomings, especially with his game control and kicking game. However, he has really improved his game immensely over his time at the Sharks and would be a major coup for the Green Machine.
Benji’s career looked to be wrapping up, however at the Rabbitohs he had a resurgence and once again proved himself as a freak of nature. At 36 years old, he is still holding his own and at times has looked in peak form. If the Raiders were to sign Benji, it would obviously be a short term fix to their problem, but a great fix nonetheless.
Even though he hasn’t been the best form of late, it was still surprising to see that the Dragons have told Norman to look elsewhere. He is inconsistent, however, could playing at a more stable club help him out majorly? Definitely, if he keeps it simple and signs with the Raiders, Norman could go back to what he was playing like at the Eels. It would be a shame to see a talent like him moving to Super League, hopefully a team like the Raiders give him one last chance to prove himself in the NRL.
The career of Ash Taylor has had many highs, as well as more lows. He burst onto the scene as a wonderkid, only to now be a below-average half in the NRL. Moving clubs is definitely something Ash has to do to reemerge and the Raiders could give him that opportunity. If the Green Machine swings and misses on other candidates, Ash Taylor could be a low risk, high reward signing that really could change both’s fortunes. He is a lot younger than the options at only 26 years old, so he has long term benefits too.
The decision the Raiders are about to make is going to be pivotal for the club. Picking the right halfback that really fits the team well and makes them better will push them back into the finals. However, picking the wrong one may set them back several years.
There are some short term options like Benji and Widdop, who could really make a difference for the side but may only play one season. Players like Johnson and Norman have the potential to be the best halfbacks in the world, but consistency is the big question over both. Ash Taylor is an interesting one, because he has a lot of battle scars for a 26-year-old and could really turn his career around if the situation is right.
All five of the candidates have pros and cons, which makes this decision so tough for the management of the Raiders to make. Hopefully, they make the right one because halfback is one of the most important positions in any rugby league side.