26 May 2021

The Raiders need to grow a 'spine' to be premiership contenders

| Tim Gavel
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George Williams

George Williams has been released by the Raiders to return to the UK. Photo: Supplied.

Rugby League people talk a lot about the importance of ‘the spine’ – the spine being the combined talents of the hooker, halfback and fullback.

In the Raiders glory years of 1989, 90 and 94, the spine was virtually unchanged and had an enormous influence on the team’s success.

In 1989/90, Steve Walters was the best hooker in rugby league. His combination with halfback Ricky Stuart was second to none, and Stuart was one of the greatest tactical halfbacks the game has seen.

Ricky Stuart

Ricky Stuart: Raiders coach and one of the greatest halfback the game has ever seen. Photo: Raiders.

Combine the brilliance of Walters and Stuart with the attacking talents of Gary Belcher at fullback and the Raiders spine was the best in the competition. It was reflected in the trophy cabinet.

In 1994, Stuart and Walters maintained their partnership with Brett Mullins at fullback, replacing the retired Belcher.

Again, the combined influence of all three can’t be underestimated.

At the moment, the Raiders spine is looking fractured – made worse by injury, suspension and homesickness.

George Williams’ departure became messy as he basically told the club he was leaving no matter what. Rather than demand he fulfils his contract and plays, he was released by the Raiders.

COVID-19 proved to be the tipping point as he and his partner couldn’t travel back to see their families in the UK. It also prevented their families from visiting them in Australia.

That’s the start of the Raiders’ problems.

Fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad is out for much of the season with a neck injury while hooker Josh Hodgson has been in and out through injury and suspension.

There’s also talk that hooker Hodgson is unsettled.

Without a quality spine, the Raiders won’t win a premiership.

The key now is to recruit the right personnel in the knowledge that it could take a couple of years to return to a semblance of the side that made it through to the Grand Final in 2019.

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Keith Wilson8:37 am 27 May 21

Something to think about. Leaves his home travels half way around the world which is a challenge to begin with. Expectations onclude being able to see family by them visiting Australia or he and his partner going home when able to. Covid hits and not only does that close off his extended family but brain dead premier in WA prevents his only family member visiting him. Wife falls pregnant compounding this. Now imagine going home every day to a very unhappy wife. Pressure builds. Team underperforming. The Raiders have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. To stubborn and ignorant to realise George was in a no win situation. He wanted a release at the END of the seasoncc from his final year which if granted would have settled the home situation and he could have got stuck in knowing they would be reunited with family by 2022
But no you can’t go George we dont care how unhappy your wife is or stressful your life now is a contract is a contract. So frustrated by the brick wall that multiple requests were made for an end of season release. clearly his manager understood the extent of George’s anxiety and the stress in his home life. Not all immigrants love this country which is something not realised until they take the risk. I think George does like it here but his wife and baby are his prime focus. I feel the Raiders have blown this big time and with it our season.. Critics should walk in George’s boots before being so dismissive of his needs. Good luck George and family…

That’s a massive cop out.

He basically said to the club that he wanted to pick and choose when he trained and played. But conveniently still wanted to get paid.

The real reason he only wanted to be released at the end of the year is obvious. It would allow him to continue getting his massive income and then walk back in to a Super League club contract in the UK.

If his mental struggles with his pregnant wife and not being able to see his family were truly so great, the Raiders have acted extremely generously to him and removed those pressures and he should be grateful.

The fact that he isn’t happy about it tells you all you need to know.

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