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2022 SEASON REVIEW: Canberra Raiders

Andrew Pelechaty reviews the 2022 Season of the Canberra Raiders where they finished eighth on the ladder and were eliminated in week 2 of the finals series.

Stats

Wins: 14
Losses: 10
Most Tries: Hudson Young (14)
Most Points: Jamal Fogarty (116)
Club Player of the Year: Joseph Tapine

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40 Years Celebrated With Raiders Returning to the Finals

After a disappointing 2021, Canberra were looking to celebrate their 40th anniversary with an improved 2022.

While they eventually made the semi-finals, it wasn’t an easy path, with The Milk only hitting their straps in the last month.

The Raiders looked like wooden spoon contenders after eight rounds, with just two wins and inexcusable collapses against North Queensland (ruining every Raiders fan’s Easter long weekend) and the Warriors in Redcliffe. While injuries aren’t an excuse, they were missing star recruit Jamal Fogarty (injured on the eve of the season and not returning until Round 12), Jarrod Croker (facing a long way back to reach the 300-game milestone), and Josh Hodgson (gone for the season in Round 1). Hodgson’s injury messed up Ricky Stuart’s planned hooker rotation, which was eventually solved after Zac Woolford came in during Magic Round.

Though the Raiders won 12 of their last 16 to make the finals (including four wins between Rounds 9 to 13 and five from Round 22 to the elimination final), it seemed like they’d left their run too late: they had crucial losses to St George Illawarra (Wollongong) and Brisbane, “get out of jail” wins against Newcastle (both home and away) and the Dragons (at Bruce), and some truly horrible “Faiders” second halves. Fans were frustrated and the usual “Sack Sticky” brigade was piping up. Not mention the “weak-gutted dog” controversy that saw Stuart suspended for a week.

Then, The Footy Gods aligned.

Top four contenders heading into August, Brisbane lost 60-12 against Melbourne (Round 23) and 53-6 against Parramatta (Round 24 – both at Lang Park), while Canberra belted Manly Warringah 48-6 (Round 24). With one round left, Canberra was in the eight and had finally erased their negative points differential.

The Dragons did them a favour, beating Brisbane in the final round to seal Canberra’s finals place. The Raiders celebrated by belting the abysmal Wests Tigers 56-10 (leading 42-0 at halftime). Canberra scored 524 points in the regular season, and 104 alone in Rounds 24 and 25. And their 14 wins was only one less than their 2019 grand final run.

Surely that would be it, as team eight rarely gets past week one? Again, luck went Canberra’s way, drawn to play Melbourne in the elimination final. The Raiders had won four straight at AAMI Park since 2019 and then made it five by knocking Melbourne out. Hopes of a third preliminary final in four seasons were dashed by Parramatta in the semi-final, with the Eels winning 40-4, though the final margin felt a bit harsh on the Raiders.

Joe Tapine had a career-best season, winning the Meninga Medal in a canter. The good news is he’s staying until 2027. Hudson Young saved Canberra more than once with individual brilliance, while the Jack Wighton/Jamal Fogarty halves combination grew in confidence as the season progressed. Wighton had a vastly improved season after a poor 2021. And Xavier Savage usurped the departing Charnze Nicoll-Kolkstad: while Savage was error-prone, he was also physically tough, mentally strong, and had moments of electric footy, including a long-range try for Canberra’s only points in the semi-final, shaking off an early error that led to an Eels try.

How will the Raiders build on this better-than-expected season in 2023? There are some good signs, as a few of the younger guys have crucial finals experience now.

NothingButLeague Raiders Player of 2022: Joseph Tapine (20)

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Matches: 25
Run Metres: 3,763
Tackles: 676
Tackle Bursts: 74

Other Points: 16 Jack Wighton; 13 Hudson Young; 6 Matt Frawley, Xavier Savage; 5 Brad Schneider; 3 Tom Starling; 2 Corey Harawira-Naera, Jordan Rapana, Josh Papali’i, Nick Cotric, Sebastian Kris; 1 Albert Hopoate, James Schiller, Zac Woolford.

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