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Rugby league great Phil Gould has questioned the attitude of the Canberra Raiders after Ricky Stuart’s side was brought back down to earth by the Newcastle Knights.
Tipped as favourites coming into the match, the high-flying Raiders were rocked by Newcastle who jumped out to a 28-6 lead before finishing 34-18 winners.
The result was a surprise given the Raiders’ dismantling of the Melbourne Storm in Round 3, and Gould suggested that the Raiders had fallen victim to complacency.
“You never stop learning in this game. Just when you think you’ve got it down pat, it comes back to bite you,” he said on Nine’s NRL coverage.
“The Raiders have been bitten on the a– this afternoon and they’ll be limping home to Canberra feeling very, very sorry for themselves.
“It’s games like this that remind you of how you’ve got to have so much attention to detail week-in, week-out and not take anyone lightly.”
The Raiders’ problems were evident in the first half of the match, with the Knights taking a 16-6 lead into the sheds at half-time, and Gould identified their problems at the main break.
“Footballers, football teams and coaches have been dogged this for years,” he said at half-time.
“You don’t know where it comes from, you turn up one day, you think everything’s sweet and it’s just not.
“They call it complacency. People think complacency is an attitude, it’s not. Complacency is your actions and the way you do things.”
Gould questioned Raiders coach Ricky Stuart’s game plan in the first half of the match, calling it “generic”.
“The way I feel about the Raiders today is they’ve turned up with a generic type of attitude. A very generic type of game plan.,” he said.
“There doesn’t seem to be any real type of focus or anything specific about what they’re working for. They’re just rolling through their own set of plays at their own set of speed.
“And it looks as if they’ve been shocked by the resilience of the Newcastle defence. They roll plays just expecting Newcastle to drop out of the way.
“This is the challenge for a coach at half-time, to try and turn this around and find out what kick-starts the action in the second half. Because if you haven’t got a specific focus during the week, it’s hard to find it in the 10-minute break at half-time.”
Gould’s half-time message proved prophetic, as the Raiders were stunned in the first 10 minutes of the second half courtesy of a double to Edrick Lee in the space of six minutes.
However, the Knights win wasn’t all down to the Raiders’ complacency, with Kalyn Pong and youngster Bradman Best putting on a clinic.
Playing together for the first time this year, Best and Ponga wreaked havoc on Sunday afternoon on Newcastle’s left edge as the Knights stayed undefeated for 2020.
The pair had a hand in all six of Newcastle’s tries, both crossing for one of their own to claim a massive scalp in downing the premiership favourites.
The win puts the Knights second on the ladder, as one of only three undefeated teams alongside top-placed Parramatta and Penrith. Newcastle drew last week with the Panthers.
Best’s showing came in just his fifth NRL game, with the highly touted 18-year-old almost certain to be a regular feature on the Knights’ left edge.
He looked damaging with every run, busting four tackles and scoring his first in just the second minute when Ponga put him over from a scrum play.
The teenager also set one up for fellow centre Enari Tuala, grubbering across field after a Mitchell Pearce bomb had been batted back to him.
– With AAP