Top ten stories on The Greenhouse: What you clicked in 2018

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greeneyed
Don Furner
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Top ten stories on The Greenhouse: What you clicked in 2018

Post by greeneyed » December 27, 2018, 1:06 pm

Top ten stories on The Greenhouse: What you clicked in 2018

2018. Another disappointing season for the Canberra Raiders. The Raiders have now made the finals in just one of the past six seasons, three times in the past decade. If it is not the worst period in Canberra Raiders history, it is very close. Next year, it will be 25 years since the Raiders won their last premiership. Only the Eels have experienced a longer premiership drought.

2018 season was always going to be tough, with star hooker Josh Hodgson on the sidelines for half the season with an ACL injury, suffered in England's World Cup semi final. And as it would turn out, another key player in the Raiders' spine, Jack Wighton, would also spend half the season on the sideline.

So what did the fans discuss the most? What news did they crave? Today, we reveal the top ten stories on The Greenhouse of the year.

Jack Wighton

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There is no doubt about the No. 1 story of the year. It is one that unfortunately spanned most of 2018. It started in early February, a birthday celebration gone wrong in the early hours of the morning outside the Academy nightclub in Civic. In June, Jack Wighton pleaded guilty in court to six charges of assault and urinating in public - and he was stood down by the Canberra Raiders for six matches. That was an insufficient penalty for the NRL - and they came over the top of the Raiders and imposed a 10 week ban and a $30,000 fine. It essentially ruled Wighton out for the remainder of the season. The unhappy story reached its conclusion in mid November, when Wighton was sentenced in the ACT's Galambany Court. He was handed a suspended two-month jail sentence, a one year good behaviour bond and a $3,500 fine.

Wighton admitted it was a "big muck up on my behalf". He apologised to his victims outside the court.

"I'd like to take the opportunity to apologise to the victims of the incident for any pain I may have caused them and their families," he said. "There are no excuses for my behaviour. I want to let them know that I'm truly sorry for what happened that night."

Big names depart

2018 was a year which saw some big changes in the Canberra Raiders squad - with three big names departing the club. The Raiders took some hard nosed decisions, electing not to match big offers from other clubs for props Shannon Boyd and Junior Paulo - while they ultimately decided not to re-sign Blake Austin.

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Shannon Boyd was the first to confirm his departure on 16 May. He played his best game of the season against the Gold Coast Titans in Round 9 - and ironically signed with the Titans shortly after that match - on a four year deal reportedly worth $650,000 a season. The Raiders offered a three year deal, but that was knocked back by Boyd.

Boyd later admitted he had been "playing for a contract" in that Round 9 match - and claimed his switch was not all about the money.

"I was always going to try to be a one-club player and stay at Canberra but I think my football was a little bit stale down there," he said in December. "It wasn’t so much the contract itself, I was happy to stay at Canberra for less money, it was just that I needed to start playing some better footy and I needed a fresh start."

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Junior Paulo was next, announcing his decision to return to the Parramatta Eels on 21 May. Paulo had joined the Canberra Raiders from the Eels in the middle of the 2016 season, amidst the Parramatta salary cap scandal and after being involved in a number of off field controversies. He had been issued a warning by police for consorting with criminals, and his own manager urged him to leave the Eels and western Sydney for the sake of his own welfare.

A little over a year later, Paulo was awarded the 2017 Meninga Medal - the player judged by his peers to be the Canberra Raiders Player of the Year. He appeared to be well settled with the Green Machine, having left his off field issues behind him. However, from early in the season, there was considerable uncertainty surrounding his tenure at the Raiders for 2019 and beyond - with reports indicating a return to Eels was in the offing. He ended up signing a four year deal with the Eels, reportedly worth $3 million.

On announcing the signing, Paulo said he was not concerned about returning to the environment of western Sydney.

"I was getting into trouble and I was a bit immature at the time," Paulo said. "My move to Canberra [was] beneficial for me away from the footy field and helped me mature as a person and as a father."

"But I feel I'm [now] a lot more mature, and you can't let things get in the way of your career. I'm looking after my family, that's what the move is about. I've secured our future financially and we'll also be around that family support."

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On July 10, it was announced Blake Austin would be heading to the English Super League - on a three year deal with the Warrington Wolves. Austin was the Dally M five eighth of the year in 2015. But by 2018, his contract was ultimately not renewed by the Green Machine. Austin was offered a significant new contract by the Raiders in 2017, but he turned it down - with some reports suggesting he wanted to demonstrate on field he was worth an even bigger contract. Austin said later it was not about the money, but being sure he was happy at the club. In any event, subsequent offers from Canberra were reportedly lower than the initial offer - and eventually, the Raiders took their offer off the table.

Austin had been linked to Parramatta, and he said he gave serious consideration to the Eels' offer.

"A lot of people thought we were looking to get closer to family [in western Sydney]", he said. "[The Eels] were an option and one I considered pretty heavily. I would have been 10 minutes from mum and dad and I supported the club as a kid. But weighing everything up, I’m really excited about heading to the Super League and seeing what it’s all about."

Papalii a Raider for life

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On the positive side of the ledger, on 15 June, the Raiders announced the re-signing of star forward Josh Papalii - and he will now likely end his career with the Green Machine. A Raider for life.

The rumours around Papalii started in earnest in February this year.

"Which club is making a huge play for Canberra Raiders off contract second rower Josh Papalii for 2019 with an offer Ricky Stuart will find hard to match?" The Sunday Telegraph reported.

It was far from clear Papalii wanted to leave the nation's capital. Papalii returned from a World Cup stint with Samoa well out of condition - and he was concerned he'd jeopardised his contract negotiations with the Green Machine.

"I think my manager has spoken to [Ricky Stuart] once or twice but that was before the World Cup," Papalii said in February. "Obviously I didn’t have a strong World Cup, so I think that's still up in the air. It'd be nice to get it done before the season starts, but these things can drag on."

They certainly did. The club making a "huge play" for Papalii was variously reported to be the Warriors, the Titans... and most notably, the Rabbitohs. One journalist even claimed Papalii had signed with South Sydney.

But Papalii eventually signed a four year contract extension with the Raiders in June, tying him to the Green Machine until the end of 2022.

"Security was the biggest key behind my contract but like I said from the start of my career, once a Canberra Raider always a Raider," Papalii said on re-signing.

"So, I'm happy to sign again for four years and keep the green jersey on my back. That will be me to 30 and hopefully I'll still be getting better as age goes on."

He admitted there had been strong interest from the Rabbitohs.

"I had my options there, but I've got two kids and a partner myself and you take that into perspective and the best option for them and my footy career was to stay here. It wasn't hard at all."

The Raiders also signed half Aidan Sezer on a two year deal, while Sia Soliola also re-committed to the club. The club also signed English forwards John Bateman and Ryan Sutton - but those stories featured just outside the top ten.

Raiders interest in Shaun Johnson

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The biggest signing story in 2018 related to a player who ultimately signed with the Cronulla Sharks. Half Shaun Johnson had long been the face of the New Zealand Warriors - and he was under contract to the Auckland based outfit for the 2019 season. But the Warriors had made it clear to Johnson that no new deal was on the table at present - and that a pay cut was in prospect for the $1 million player if he were to be re-signed.

Press reports emerged at the end of October that the Raiders were interested in Johnson for 2019... and the news spread like wild fire amongst Raiders fans. The amount of interest reflected the lack of depth in the Raiders halves - and the fact that the Green Machine has been searching for over two decades for a half who might come close to matching the legendary Ricky Stuart.

Now the coach, Stuart confirmed the club's interest in Johnson publicly, but it all proved to be a pipe dream within a month. Ultimately, Johnson and the Warriors agreed to part ways - but the Raiders salary cap proved too tight in 2019 to get the Kiwis half to the national capital. Instead, Johnson agreed to sign a three year deal with the Cronulla Sharks - a club under a financial cloud, a club under investigation for salary cap breaches... and a club with a coach who would soon be facing de-registration by the NRL for failing to comply with the terms of a drugs ban.

On the field

On the field, the news was almost all bad. So it is not surprising that Ricky Stuart's coaching record was a major topic for discussion amongst Raiders fans. In five years as head coach, Ricky Stuart has led the team to its most successful season in 20 years, reaching the Preliminary Final in 2016. But it is the only season the club has made the finals under his tenure. 2019 looms as a huge test.

As always, interest at the start of the season was high. The Raiders trial against the Bulldogs on the Sunshine Coast attracted a lot of attention. However, the Raiders lost the four opening matches of the season - with the narrow, last gasp losses to the Titans and the Warriors and the thrashing at Brookvale by the Sea Eagles featuring in our top ten lists. In particular, Ricky Stuart created waves when he labelled his team "soft" after the loss to Manly.









On the plus side, the breakthrough win in Round 5 over the Bulldogs, the landmark win over the Cowboys in Townsville, the last gasp win over the Sea Eagles at Canberra Stadium and the big Round 15 win over the Tigers also featured on our top ten lists.









Sadly, two of the best performances of the year - wins late in the season against premiership contenders, the Rabbitohs and the ultimate premiers, the Roosters, did not attract the attention they deserved. By then, the season was already over.

So that was the news that was. Raiders fans will probably be happy to leave 2018 behind, and will be hoping for a much better 2019. Will it be the year of the Raider?

TOP TEN STORIES ON THE GREENHOUSE IN 2018, BASED ON WHAT YOU CLICKED

Top ten stories based on daily site traffic:

1. Jack Wighton in alleged night club fight (April 3)
2. Canberra Raiders record first win of the season against Bulldogs (April 5-6)
3. Signing news swirls as Raiders prepare for the Sharks - Soliola commits to Raiders while Sezer linked to Storm (May 8)
4. Jack Wighton facing nine charges after night club incident (April 7)
5. Narrow loss to the Warriors... third in a row to start the season (March 24)
6. Raiders last gasp loss to the Titans in season opener (March 11)
7. Raiders say they'll stick by Wighton (April 9)
8. Coach Ricky Stuart labels Raiders as soft after loss to Sea Eagles... the fourth straight to start the season (30 March-April 1)
9. Blake Austin signs with Warrington Wolves, after starring role in miracle at Belmore (July 10)
10. Bulldogs want Sezer, while Raiders deny interest in Robbie Farah (March 28)
10. Raiders defeated by the Sharks at home (May 13)

Top ten individual threads based on views:

1. NRL bans Jack Wighton for 10 matches, impose $30,000 fine
2. Ricky Stuart's coaching record
3. Raiders express interest in Shaun Johnson, but signs with the Sharks
4. Canberra Raiders prop Shannon Boyd signs with Gold Coast Titans
5. Junior Paulo to depart Canberra Raiders at end of 2018, signs with Parramatta Eels
6. Blake Austin signs with Warrington Wolves
7. 2018 Rd 1 V Titans: Teams and Previews
8. 2018 Trial: Canberra Raiders V Canterbury Bulldogs
9. Josh Papalii re-signs with Canberra Raiders on four year deal
10. 2018 Rd 1 V Titans: Game Day

Top ten individual threads based on replies:

1. NRL bans Jack Wighton for 10 matches, impose $30,000 fine
2. Ricky Stuart's coaching record
3. Raiders express interest in Shaun Johnson, but signs with the Sharks
4. 2018 Rd 15 V Tigers: Game Day
5. 2018 Rd 14 V Panthers: Game Day
6. 2018 Rd 4 V Sea Eagles: Game Day
7. 2018 Rd 12 V Sea Eagles: Game Day
8. 2018 Rd 8 V Cowboys: Game Day
9. 2018 Rd 20 V Storm: Game Day
10. 2018 Rd 5 V Bulldogs: Game Day
* Individual threads from the Canberra Raiders forum, excluding permanently stickied and recurring threads.
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User avatar
greeneyed
Don Furner
Posts: 122794
Joined: January 7, 2005, 4:21 pm

Re: Top ten stories on The Greenhouse: What you clicked in 2018

Post by greeneyed » December 31, 2018, 9:31 pm

The 10 most read NRL stories on foxsports.com.au in 2018: https://www.foxsports.com.au/nrl/nrl-pr ... 8169ec65d1
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User avatar
greeneyed
Don Furner
Posts: 122794
Joined: January 7, 2005, 4:21 pm

Re: Top ten stories on The Greenhouse: What you clicked in 2018

Post by greeneyed » January 5, 2019, 5:46 pm

The stories that defined Canberra sport in 2018

1. Jack Wighton
Jack Wighton told the court he didn’t remember the incident, but the Canberra Raiders fullback will always remember the story.

5. Ricky versus the referees
The flag went up, then it went down. And with it went the Raiders' finals hopes in a controversial clash against the Cronulla Sharks.

9. The Raiders get a new $19 million home
A landmark three-way deal saw the ACT and NSW governments join forces to drive the Green Machine towards their long-term goal of a home in the heart of the city.

Read more: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/topic/ ... 50la9.html
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greeneyed
Don Furner
Posts: 122794
Joined: January 7, 2005, 4:21 pm

Re: Top ten stories on The Greenhouse: What you clicked in 2018

Post by greeneyed » January 5, 2019, 5:47 pm

Two of those didn't feature in our top ten.
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