Top ten Canberra Raiders stories of 2019: What you clicked on The Greenhouse
2019. It was the best season for the Canberra Raiders in 25 years. The Raiders had not made the Grand Final for a quarter of a century - and the Raiders got "oh so close" to a fourth premiership. The wait for a title continues - for a club that has waited longer than any other, apart from the Eels. However, Raiders fans were left bursting with pride after the Grand Final - a match in which the Raiders were the better team everywhere but on the final scoreboard.
So what did the fans discuss the most? What news did they crave? Today, we reveal the top ten Canberra Raiders stories on The Greenhouse of the year.
Charge to the Grand Final... #Trainergate and #SixAgain
The number one story is obvious. The 2019 Grand Final. On 6 October, the supporters in lime took over Homebush, took over Sydney. A Viking Clap we will never forget. And the Raiders showed all the characteristics which got them to the Grand Final. They were resilient, composed, united and tough. Their defence was outstanding. However, fortune didn't smile on the Green Machine in some key moments, and the Roosters took their opportunities in a controversial match. #Trainergate and #SixAgain sent Twitter into meltdown... and were the subject of considerable debate on The Greenhouse in the aftermath of the game.
The Grand Final ranked sixth for site traffic... but that's not entirely surprising, given the large numbers of devoted Raiders fans at Sydney Olympic Park and the effective internet black out at the ground. When they renovate the stadium next year, a digital service that can handle a sell out crowd is surely a critical improvement. And while the two Grand Final threads on The Greenhouse did not rank first for views or replies, together they well exceeded any other thread.
There were some incredible victories in the Raiders' finals charge - including the two finals matches leading to the Grand Final. There is nothing more difficult than beating the Storm in Melbourne, and the Raiders did it twice in 2019, in the space of five weeks. The victory in Melbourne in Week 1 saw the Raiders qualify for the Preliminary Final at home. And what a match that was in front of a record crowd at Canberra Stadium. When Josh Papalii scored under the posts, there has never been such a wild outpouring of emotion at Bruce. What a sweet night it was. Canberra was swept up in green fever and we experienced a Grand Final week Raiders fans will never forget.
Building blocks for a top four finish
In recent seasons, some of the most discussed Raiders matches have been losses - when the Raiders have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. But those sorts of matches were nowhere to be seen in 2019. The fans clicked on The Greenhouse for news of some impressive wins.
It started in Round 1, when the Raiders held the Gold Coast Titans scoreless. Then there was the victory over the Panthers at Penrith in Round 19 - a match that all the Sydney critics were expecting that the home team, on a seven game winning streak, would win. Instead, the Raiders exposed the Panthers and it was the beginning of the end for Penrith.
In Round 22, Canberra produced one of its greatest ever comebacks. The Raiders trailed the Storm 18-0 after 30 minutes, with two players, Jack Wighton and Joe Tapine, sent to the sin bin. The Green Machine then scored 22 unanswered points to take victory.
In Round 24, the Raiders went to Cronulla to face the Sharks in the final home game for Cronulla captain Paul Gallen. It was a sell out, a cauldron, and the Raiders prevailed in golden point with Aidan Sezer's third field goal of the game.
As always, there was considerable interest in the pre-season trials on The Greenhouse, with big numbers of our readers clicking on our coverage of the Raiders' trial match against the Bulldogs from Bega. There were a few losses to feature in our top ten lists, but they were well down the lists - the narrow Magic Round loss to the Roosters in Brisbane; the final round loss to the Warriors, when the Raiders rested their stars; and the controversial Round 23 loss to the Sea Eagles, when the NRL later admitted Manly's winning try should not have been awarded.
Jack Wighton was the No. 1 story of 2018 on The Greenhouse, for all the wrong reasons. How he turned that around in 2019. News of his shift to five eighth at the start of the season was just outside the top ten most viewed threads. He went on to make his debut for the Blues and the Kangaroos and to win the Clive Churchill Medal, the best on ground in a losing team in the Grand Final.
When news broke in mid October that he was turning down an option in his contract with the Raiders for 2021, it sent shock waves through the fan base. There was no bigger daily spike in site traffic this year.
Wighton quickly explained he wanted to stay with the Green Machine.
"I'm 100 per cent there for next year , and the option for the following year in my favour was signed under my old management, and that's the only reason I haven't taken it up,'' Wighton explained.
"That's all it is. I love Canberra. It's the place I call home. Sometimes I forget where I come from and say 'Canberra' rather than 'Orange'. I love the place, the community, the fans and the club.''
It looks very much like he will be staying, with news breaking before Christmas that the Raiders are set to offer Wighton a new deal worth $2.7 million over three years. That's $900,000 a season, compared to the $750,000 option for 2021 under his current deal. With payments for Origin and Test matches, Wighton could earn more than $1 million a season should he again be selected for representative honours.
Raiders snare George Williams
There is little doubt that the Canberra Raiders' biggest new signing for 2020 is George Williams. When news broke in March that the premierhip winning Wigan Warriors half had signed a three year deal with Canberra, we saw the second biggest spike in site traffic for the year. It took a while for things to become official, with negotiations between Canberra and Wigan on a transfer fee dragging out. But the deal was finally confirmed in early July.
Canberra has long struggled to put a winning halves combination together. They came close in 2016 and 2019, but for Raiders fans, Williams' became their great hope for the future. At the time, it was unclear whether Jack Wighton would make the transition to five eighth. In addition, one of the biggest question marks over the season was whether Aidan Sezer or Sam Williams should take the No. 7 jersey. Williams or Sezer? was the second most viewed thread of the year.
While the halves partnership of Sezer and Wighton ultimately took Canberra to the Grand Final, George Williams will be the No. 7 in 2020 after Sezer was released to join the Huddersfield Giants.
Other signing news to make the top ten was the departure of winger Jordan Rapana to Japanese rugby union - while the recruitment of Melbourne Storm centre Curtis Scott and the contract extension for fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad were stories not far outside the top ten most viewed of the year.
So that was the news that was in 2019. Raiders fans will be hoping that the Green Machine can go just that one step further in 2020. Will it be the year of the Raider?
TOP TEN CANBERRA RAIDERS STORIES ON THE GREENHOUSE IN 2019, BASED ON WHAT YOU CLICKED
Top ten stories based on daily site traffic:
1. Jack Wighton tests market after turning down option for 2021 (October 16-17)
2. George Williams reported to have signed three year deal, while Raiders announce team for season opener (March 12)
3. Canberra Raiders defeat Melbourne Storm in Week 1 of the finals (September 14-15)
4. Canberra Raiders qualify for the Grand Final, defeating South Sydney Rabbitohs in Preliminary Final (September 27-28)
5. Canberra Raiders golden point Round 24 win over Cronulla Sharks (September 1)
6. Canberra Raiders defeated in Grand Final, while controversy rages over #Trainergate and #SixAgain (October 6-7)
7. Canberra Raiders defeat Panthers in crucial Round 19 clash at Penrith (July 28)
8. Canberra Raiders finish fourth, despite Round 25 loss to New Zealand Warriors (September 7)
9. Jordan Rapana officially announces departure from the Raiders, while 2020 draw announced (October 29-30)
10. Ticket frenzy as Grand Final week kicks off (September 30)
Top ten individual threads based on views:
1. Canberra Raiders sign Wigan Warriors half George Williams
2. Williams or Sezer?
3. 2019 Grand Final V Roosters: Game Day
4. 2019 Grand Final V Roosters: Teams and Previews
5. Jarrod Croker
6. 2019 Preliminary Final V Rabbitohs: Teams and Previews
7. 2019 Rd 1 V Titans: Teams and Previews
8. Canberra Raiders offering Jack Wighton close to $3 million, after he goes on open market for 2021
9. 2019 Trial 2 V Bulldogs: Teams and Game Day
10. Canberra Raiders rewarded with representative honours
Top ten individual threads based on replies:
1. Williams or Sezer?
2. 2019 Rd 22 V Storm: Game Day
3. 2019 Grand Final V Roosters: Game Day
4. 2019 Finals Wk 1 V Storm: Game Day
5. Canberra Raiders sign Wigan Warriors half George Williams
6. Jarrod Croker
7. 2019 Rd 9 V Roosters: Game Day
8. 2019 Rd 24 V Sharks: Game Day
9. 2019 Preliminary Final V Rabbitohs: Game Day
10. 2019 Rd 23 V Sea Eagles: Game Day
* Individual threads from the Canberra Raiders forum, excluding permanently stickied and recurring threads.
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