Don’t underestimate the Raiders backline

The Raiders are always written off as ‘also-rans’ before each NRL season commences, but by the look of their sharp and speedy backline this year certainly some opposition teams could come away with their tails between their legs. A name that will continue to rise out of the wilderness at the Raiders is pure speedman William Zillman, the young fullback who made a name for himself last year is rumoured to be even quicker and is arguably the quickest man in the NRL.

With the Raiders squad not having the luxury of a high profile name to guide them around the field, head coach Neil Henry will again be forced to call upon on the exuberance of the youngsters to give Canberra an edge against teams seemingly better off in terms of recognizable talent.

With a backline full of attacking brilliance and blinding speed, the Raiders season will hinge on whether they can rectify their woeful goalline defensive lapses of last season. Always tough to beat on their home soil, coach Henry will also need to rectify his charges poor traveling record for them to seriously challenge for a Top 8 position.

While Henry has a determined and willing team at his disposal, his young Raiders will struggle to continuously keep their intensity at the optimum level in what will be another close season.

Advantages-

A number of the Raiders youngsters will be better for the experience gained last year, so expect Canberra to cause a few upsets against some of their more fancied opposition. Coach Henry has some of the best young talent at his disposal, with William Zillman, Bronx Goodwin, Terry Campese and Todd Carney looking to kick on from successful debut seasons.

The enthusiasm of the younger brigade is sure to inspire the older guys, and Canberra Stadium is yet another advantage – most teams dread the road trip to play in Canberra’s freezing cold conditions.

Concerns-

One of Canberra’s strengths is also their greatest weakness – inexperience. Only Alan Tongue, Colin Best, Lincoln Withers, Scott Logan and Colin Best have played 100 top grade career games, with the average age of the Raiders top 17 being only 24 years. If the Raiders are hit with injuries, than coach Henry will be forced to blood youngsters from either the Raiders under 20 Toyota squad, or from the local Canberra competition.

Canberra Raiders likely 2008 Starting Squad-

1- William Zillman
2- Colin Best
3- Joel Monaghan
4- Phil Graham
5- Adrian Purtell
6- Todd Carney
7- Michael Dobson
8- Scott Logan
9- Lincoln Withers
10- Troy Thompson
11- Dane Tilse
12- Neville Costigan
13- Alan Tongue

14- Josh Miller
15- Michael Weyman
16- Marshall Clark
17– Tom Learoyd-Lahrs

Trial Matches-

16/02/08 v Gold Coast Titans @ Briggs Rd Sporting Complex, Ipswich
23/02/08 v Brisbane Broncos @ Wade Park, Orange
01/03/08 v North QLD Cowboys @ Brothers RL Park, Mackay

2008 Gains and Losses –

Gains – Joel Monaghan (Sydney Roosters), Matt Smith (QRL)

Losses – Andrew Dunemann and Jason Williams (QRL), Brad Cross (West Belconnen), Matt Bickerstaff (released), Josh McCrone (Penrith)

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