SuperCoach Scout: Canberra Raiders
LAST season was a rough oner for the Canberra Raiders, whose 10th place finished was much below expectations.
The Raiders are one of the most exciting teams to watch, ranking first, third and second for points scored in 2016, 2017 and 2018 respectively.
Their back line of Jarrod Croker, BJ Leilua, Nick Cotric, and Jordan Rapana have all been serious gun CTW considerations over these past three years, while Josh Papalii, Joe Tapine, Elliott Whitehead, and Josh Hodgson have all been on SuperCoach radars in the forwards as well.
Needless to say, they are a very SuperCoach relevant squad.
This season is no different, but for different reasons than seasons past. With the departures of Shannon Boyd and Junior Paulo, Ricky Stuart will be blooding new front rowers, as well as shifting his stellar second-rowers to ensure stability in the forward pack.
Similarly, with the departure of Blake Austin, it has been widely reported that Jack Wighton is making a shift from the back to the halves. Wighton's move, coupled with Jordan Rapana's shoulder injury, which is expected to keep him out until at least round 10, puts two back line spots up for grabs, which presents opportunities for cheapies to come knocking.
In: John Bateman (Super League, 2024), JJ Collins (Newcastle Knights, 2020), Andre Niko (2019), Brendan O'Hagan (2019), Kyle Paterson (2019), Bailey Simonsson (2019), Ryan Sutton (Super League, 2020), Hudson Young (2019)
Out: Blake Austin (Super League, 2021), Shannon Boyd (Gold Coast Titans, 2022), Craig Garvey (released), Charlie Gubb (Super League, 2019), Liam Knight (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2020), Junior Paulo (Parramatta Eels, 2022), Mikaele Ravalawa (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2020)
While most clubs were busy pinching players from rival clubs, Canberra went fishing offshore, landing both John Bateman and Ryan Sutton from the Wigan Warriors. The losses of Boyd, Gubb, Knight, and Paulo leaves the pack a little light on. However, their back line remains essentially untouched.
THE BYE: Round 16. Raiders play the first big bye round, with Josh Papalii most likely the only player to be unavailable due to Origin.
THE GUN: JOSH PAPALII | 2RF/FRF | $595,900 | 63.7 Avg.
Josh Papalii has been a mainstay in the Raiders pack and will be relied on even further in 2019 with the departures of Junior Paulo and Shannon Boyd.
As a result, it seems "Papa" will move into prop to mitigate their losses, along with the glut of second-rowers at the club.
If the Queenslander plays at prop, then he is most likely a pass due to his lack of minutes. However, if Ricky Stuart decides to play him in the lock position, he becomes very enticing. In his 15 games at lock last season, he averaged 70.3 points-per-game, which means he's around $70,000 underpriced. In a very difficult FRF position, he could well be the gun we've all been looking for.
THE VALUE PICK: JOHN BATEMAN | 2RF/CTW | $400,000 | DNP
Canberra seems to be the home of the Englishmen, with John Bateman the latest recruit for the Raiders from the Super League.
Bateman played 167 matches for both Bradford and Wigan before signing with the Raiders late last year.
His dual 2RF/CTW position makes him an intriguing prospect as he will most likely be used by Stuart in the back row. Using second-rowers in the CTW provides stability in a very volatile position, which is crucial early on in the SuperCoach season.
If he can gain a starting second-row spot and play upwards of 60 minutes per match, $400,000 will be a bargain for the 25-year-old. However, we will need to wait and watch the trials to see how Stuart uses Bateman, especially with the luxury of having Whitehead and Tapine, who could both very easily fill that role too.
THE POD: JOSEPH TAPINE | 2RF | $590,100 | 63.1 Avg.
Joe Tapine was one of the key PODs last season, and looms like he will be again in 2019.
Tapine has a lower base than other rival 2RFs. However, his ceiling is high as seen by his 138 against the Tigers in round 24 last year.
Each year his minutes have increased, resulting in him becoming an 80-minute player in 2018.
This year, with the lack of front row depth, he will be relied on all the more to pick up the slack, which means minutes shouldn't be in question.
Tapine jagged six tries, 59 tackle breaks and 15 offloads in only 16 games last year, which means although he averages around only 42 points per game through tackles and hit-ups, attacking stats are a regular in his game.
His loss of FRF/2RF SuperCoach dual position is disappointing, as he would've been perfect to start in the FRF position.
Over the last two trials, keep an eye on where they use Tapine. If he secures an edge spot, expect a similar output to last season. If he secures the lock position then who knows how high he can go.
THE CHEAPIE: BAILEY SIMONSSON | FLB/CTW | $168,100 | DNP
Only five months ago, Bailey Simonsson was lining up for the All Blacks Sevens team. Now the 20-year-old is in a fight for the fullback spot vacated by Jack Wighton, who has shifted to the halves.
Even if he loses the fight for the fullback position to Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (another cheapie if he secures the fullback position), he still has the potential to fill in the wing position that's reserved for Jordan Rapana when he returns from a shoulder injury in round nine.
Simonsson's CTW position is key - there are three available bench spots and if he gains selection in round one it will be very hard to leave him off that bench.
THE TRAP: JORDAN RAPANA | CTW | $491,900 | 52.6 Avg.
Rapana was on the watch list for many SuperCoaches after a rough 2018 season - that was until he dislocated his shoulder against England at the end of last year.
As a result, he won't be available until approximately round 11, in which he is still most likely a wait-and-watch prospect until we can gauge how he holds up after his return.
If he returns early, he could be a serious option for round 12 bye coverage. Averages of 65.3 and 71.1 in 2016 and 2017 respectively show that he is quite underpriced at $491,900.