The transformation of Canberra Raiders from NRL fighters into contenders was completed by a landslide victory over South Sydney.
It was a weekend in the nation’s capital, and the transformation expanded on the football field on Sunday afternoon when the Canberra Raiders officially completed their transformation from NRL fighters to contenders.
With a 32-12 defeat to the disappointing South Sydney team in Dubbo, the Canberras have been ambushed on their second eight of the strongest teams in as many weeks and recorded their first winning streak of three games this year. Now they are only in the top eight by the difference in points.
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Jack Whiteon singled out his case for the Origin selection after returning from disqualification, while iconic man Josh Papali made an attempt in his 250th game to give Anthony Albanese a competition for the mantle of Canberra’s best dog.
For Rabbitoh Sunday’s loss could prove the difference between playing in the final and watching TV in September.
The South is still waiting for matches with Panthers, Storm, Cowboys, Rosters, Sharks and Eels (twice), so just can not afford to lose eight sides from the bottom – especially not as decisive as on Sunday.
Last week the Souths drew criticism for their performances of Jekyll and Hyde, but Dr. Jekyll probably missed the bus to Dobo; Rabbitohs ’performance was not competitive at any stage on Sunday.
The South lacked fluency through the middle and was too easily torn at the edges by the Green Car’s defensive arms.
At the start of Sunday’s game, the Raiders scored at least third points among any team this season, but had no particular problems with Rabbitoh’s soft defense.
The Raiders led 20-0 at the break, and while the Rabbits managed to stop the bleeding in the second penalty, they never had a serious chance to drive out Canberra.
The final score could have been even tougher if the Raiders had missed three of their attempts to score.
Cameron Murray’s return after injury may not come soon enough for Rabbitohs.
Playing for the first time this month, White lost a bit of time raising his hand to any of the vacant center seats on the NSW side.
Less than five minutes later, he passed to Nick Cotrick without a tag, and the winger opened the Raiders account in the corner.
In the second half, White left the line, which eventually gave the Raiders the right position on the field to score from the penalty spot.
White’s versatility, his ability to play on both sides and his nine-game Origin experience will work in his favor if he continues to insist on elections on the NSW side.
In his 250th NRL match, Josh Papali reached out for an attempt that few better qualified to score.
From the start, Big Daddy turned to the line, with anxious ease shrugging Rabbitohs and increasing the Raiders’ lead to eight points.
The celebrations of his teammates were a testament to Papal’s status as one of Canberra’s favorite figures.
Papali was just as influential outside the ball – minutes after his attempt, he and Elliott Whitehead made a textbook roll on Liam Knight and prevented a certain attempt in the process.
As of Sunday afternoon, only two men played for the Raiders more than Papal.
If he stays in shape and takes a contract to stay at the club until 2025, the big man could overtake Jason Crocker and become the player with the most players in club history.
Don’t know about Dubbo
In recent years, the NRL has become better and better at hosting games in regional Australia. By the end of the 2022 season, the regular season games will be held at 27 different venues, compared to 23 in 2012 and 18 in 2002.
But Rabbitohs may want to think about whether Dubbo is the right place to host home games in the future.
Last season, the Panthers beat them 56-12, and this time they conceded more points in the first half than in any other game this year.
And in terms of using regional games as a way to steer the team to local perspectives and develop a foothold in the area, they would probably do well to look beyond the Central West, given the Panthers ’long-standing presence there.
It could mean skipping a trip to the zoo, but a change of scenery may be something for Rabbitohs to think about after two attacks in the west.
Originally published as Canberra Raiders break South Sydney Rabbitohs ’frustration in Dubbo