4 April 2024

In Jamal Fogarty have the Raiders finally found what they have been looking for?

| Tim Gavel
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Jamal Fogarty laid the foundation for the Raiders’ first-round win. Photo: Jamal Fogarty Instagram.

It can’t be easy having one of the game’s greatest halfbacks as your coach.

The expectations for success in that position at the Raiders have been unnecessarily high, with every halfback rated in comparison to Ricky Stuart.

And there have been plenty since Stuart’s forced departure to the Bulldogs at the end of the 1998 season.

Even before his exit, comparisons to Stuart placed an unnecessary burden on any halfback attempting to fill his boots.

In 1993, when Stuart went down with a broken leg in the game against Parramatta, the Raiders went from premiership favourites to ‘also rans’ in the space of a couple of weeks, such was his influence.

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Rookie Trevor Schodel was thrust into the spotlight as Stuart’s replacement and failed to fire. The fall may not have been so great if he had been in any other position.

The media pressure alone forced coach Tim Sheens to place Schodel off limits to journalists seeking his thoughts on coming in for Stuart.

It is now history that without Stuart, the Raiders looked a totally different team heading into the finals in 1993. With Stuart out, the Raiders didn’t win another game that season, and inevitably, the blame was placed on Schodel, whose career was effectively crushed from that moment on.

It wasn’t his fault. He was replacing the dominant player in the competition at the time – the player who went on to win the Dally M Medal that year.

That burden of expectation for every Raiders halfback following Stuart’s departure from the club suffers the comparison with the champion.

No similar comparisons seem to be made for any other position in the Raiders history.

And now we have Fogarty.

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He may not have engaged the line like Nathan Cleary nor touched the ball as much as Daly Cherry-Evans or Shaun Johnson, but his kicking game laid the platform for the Raiders’ opening-round victory against Newcastle.

Fogarty’s 799 kicking metres was by a county mile more than any other halfback in the first round.

The next best was Johnson with 501 metres.

It wasn’t just the distance but the accuracy and height that created problems for the Knights’ back three.

He also kicked the most compared with any other player with 23 in total, including eight attacking kicks.

Now, it may not appear to be the most attractive feature of rugby league, but it proved to be incredibly effective, bringing back memories of when Stuart’s towering torpedoes had the fans searching into the sky before the ball landed with pinpoint accuracy.

This is why Stuart would have been more pleased with Fogarty’s performance than any other facet of his game.

But another feature of Fogarty’s game that needs to be mentioned is his calmness under pressure. He is not the quickest player, but he has obviously spent plenty of time with Stuart during the off-season developing his decision-making.

There are plenty who believed the departure of Jack Wighton would be the making of Jamal Fogarty with Wighton seemingly the dominant of the two in attack. This season could be the making of a new legend in green as he emerges from not one shadow but two.

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Jamal is a football player and has good leg limbs to boot the ball high.

Capital Retro10:01 am 15 Mar 24

He looked awkward lining up with a couple of missed conversion attempts. Maybe needs a kicking coach.

I think Jamal, like probably any player really, looks good when he’s relaxed and confident, showing he has what it takes to be a good half back, with the ability to run, pass and kick (long and short), and keep the opposition in two minds. This hasn’t happened enough in the past, though. I hope this year will be different.

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