Raiders need to ignore pre-match noise to have any hope in grand final



October 04, 2019 04:58:10

The Greater Western Sydney Giants created a big, big sound on social media before the AFL grand final, as their theme song became the greatest ear worm since Taylor Swift shook it off.

Then after the first 20 minutes of the actual match … not a peep.

Now it is another underdog, the Canberra Raiders, who are winning the NRL’s pre-grand final war with threats of thunderous Viking claps, giant horns and nostalgic tales of the great ‘Green Machine’ coming from a city revelling in unexpected success and past glories.

Which begs the question: are the Raiders and their excited fans stumbling into the same trap in which the less numerous but equally buoyant GWS Giants faithful were ensnared?

The Raiders are, in racetrack terms, «the loathed $3 outsiders» against the heavily favoured Sydney Roosters at $1.40; short odds in a two-team race.

Canberrans can console themselves with any number of historic sporting upsets, as they maintain faith the Raiders can defy the bookies’ pessimism. Although in most of these cases there is one significant difference.

The rank amateurs of the US «Miracle on Ice» hockey team were not being pestered for autographs before they upset heavy favourites USSR in the semi-finals at the 1980 Winter Olympics.

Buster Douglas was walking unrecognised through his own living room before he knocked out previously undefeated «Iron» Mike Tyson in 1990.

Jack Fleck’s best work on sand had been storming the beaches of Normandy during the D-Day invasion as a member of the invading US Forces rather than his proficiency in bunkers until he beat the legendary Ben Hogan at the 1955 US Open.

The common factor of these great sporting upsets is that the glory and notoriety came after the event. For the Raiders, like the Giants last week, there has been a pre-match euphoria that threatens to undermine the surprise factor that underdogs usually exploit.

So how do the Raiders maintain the burning intensity that often drives the rank outsider when they can’t walk through Belconnen Mall without being engulfed by gleeful fans?

Naturally, the temptation for fans of teams who have not experienced recent success to celebrate their mere presence in a big game has not escaped the attention of the Raiders’ perpetually paranoid coach, Ricky Stuart.

Stuart, who has spent a football lifetime attempting to either avoid the spotlight or use it to blind the opposition, warned about the backslapping that would engulf his team after the shock victory over the Melbourne Storm in the opening week of the finals.

«We won’t get involved in the Canberra bubble because there’ll be a lot of excitement and hype,» Stuart said.

«We’ve got to live in our own bubble and that won’t be the Canberra bubble.»

Roosters’ calm approach contrasts ‘Raidermania’

But this Raiders team is forever blowing bubbles. If the Canberra bubble was inflated by the Storm in Melbourne it was at bursting point after the sold-out home preliminary final victory over the Rabbitohs.

Canberra’s — yep — «Fab Four» English imports have even been photographed walking across a zebra crossing in homage to The Beatles. And that was before ‘Raidermania’ really took hold in their adopted home town.

The Raiders hype is in stark contrast to the now almost insouciant calm of the Roosters, for whom success is the expected outcome of heavy financial investment, ruthless administration and coach Trent Robinson’s astute man management.

If former coaching maestro and current Offsiders panellist Roy Masters was searching for a club to cast as ‘Silvertails’ against his Western Suburbs ‘Fibros’ now, surely he would choose the entitled Roosters instead of the now-accident-prone Manly.

Which does not mean there are no heart-warming tales in this Sydney Roosters team.

A Roosters premiership would mean the admirable Cooper Cronk’s career finishing on (yet another) high; outspoken Indigenous Australian star Latrell Mitchell’s sometimes-troubled season ending on the podium and Dally M medallist James Tedesco underlining his status as the game’s dominant player.

Of course you will also find warm human interest stories scrolling through the playing roster of Manchester City or the New England Patriots.

But regardless of the personnel, the sense of foreboding inevitability about the Roosters’ latest accomplishment does not exactly leave you tingling with sentimentality.

Nor should it leave even the most optimistic Canberra supporter deluded that a Raiders victory is almost as unlikely as the appearance of a real Viking ship on Lake Burley Griffin.

Tight contest or Roosters coronation?

Other than the odd selection conundrum — most notably whether veteran hooker Jake Friend plays — there seem no cracks in the facade of a Roosters team seemingly destined to become the first since the great Brisbane Broncos of 1992-93 to win back-to-back titles in a united competition.

There is, however, one factor that suggests Sunday’s decider could be more entertaining — or at least much closer — than last Saturday afternoon’s AFL fizzer.

The brutal attritional nature of the Roosters’ preliminary final victory over Storm last week emphasised their reputation as the most miserly finals team in recent memory having conceded an average of just six points per match in the finals and none before half-time.

But the Raiders have proven themselves almost equally resilient in the finals and, in their unpredictable attack, they have the capacity to block their ears to the Viking claps, put a few points on the Roosters early and sow some seeds of doubt in those ultra-confident Bondi minds.

So forget all the pre-match noise in Canberra.

It will be the euphoria or silence of the Roosters fans in those crucial first 20 minutes that will determine whether this is a contest or merely another coronation.








Dejar respuesta