In light of the Canberra Raiders’ amazing start to 2019 – including two complete shutout games – it’s only right we look at what’s changed since last season.
After Round 17 of the NRL in 2018, I wrote a piece on how the Raiders’ had some pretty disheartening stats when ahead in scoring or drawn at half time. Of these nine games, they would go on to lose 77% of them, consistently losing their momentum in the second half. At the completion of the 2018 season the Raiders had lost 16 of 24 games by six points or less, which led them to the employment of a sports psychologist , in order to help keep the momentum after half-time and reduce the amount of close losses. As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, Coach Ricky Stuart detailed both this issue and their defence had been the focus of the 2019 pre-season.
And what incredible defence they have started the season with.
Largely in part to their amazing defence, the Raiders are currently 3rd on the ladder, only sitting behind last year’s grand finalists the Storm and the Roosters. While it’s fair to argue the Raiders have started the season with some easier competition (four of their five wins have come at the expense of bottom-8 teams), their performance in defence cannot go unnoticed, with two shutout wins over the Titans and Eels already under their belt. To put it in perspective, there were only five shutout games for the entire 2018 NRL season. Their start to the 2019 season is the club’s best since 2003 where they kicked off with seven straight wins. They’ve conceded the fewest points in the competition after six rounds and have won every game when leading at halftime (five from five) – quite the turnaround from what I had written on in July of 2018.
It seems their lack of momentum and trouble in defence have been rectified in the offseason, but solidifying a top four spot will really be put to the test in Rounds 7, 9 and 10 when they face the Sea Eagles (7th) Roosters (2nd), then Rabbitohs (4th).