The Raiders produced one of the upsets of round last weekend, turning back an early onslaught from the reigning premiers, beating them in the territorial wrestle and then delivering the killer blow through an amusingly awesome run by in-form prop Josh Papalii.
That win is a double edged sword heading into this round. On the upside it has given an injury ravaged Raiders side the confidence in knowing they can probably best any other side in the comp if they apply themselves to the task at hand. The downside is they have used the element of surprise on the Roosters: the Bunnies will be waiting for them.
There are a few other things going the Raiders way. The Bunnies are probably travelling slightly worse than the Green Machine, sitting just below them on the ladder. While they’re not as stricken personnel-wise as Canberra is they’ve had a pretty similar stop/start season. Most of their wins this season have come from beating up cellar-dwellers.
The Raiders meanwhile are casting the player net far and wide. Harley Smith Shields gets his first grade call up this weekend, while last rounds debutante Semi Valemei gets a spot in the starting thirteen. Corey Harawira-Naera is looming large on the Raiders recruitment radar (we’ll deal with the complex issues around this in another piece) while Brisbane appear to have agreed to lend us Ethan Bullemor for the rest of the season.
The Raiders have again opted for the double rake interchange, with Havili set to take the opening stint at #9 before rotating back on as a prop with Tom Starling serving as dummy half for the remainder of the game. This ploy has at least two strong positives to it – it eases Starling into first grade fitness (and confidence) and spreads Havili’s underrated talents across the pack. He’s as effective taking a run from the play the ball as he is punching into the line with a hit-up as a receiving forward. It will be interesting to see how these two go against the Bunnies Damian Cook.
Round 11 can be an excellent platform for the Raiders to cement themselves in the 8 and aim for the top 4. In their last 9 games they only face two genuine contenders (Roosters/Panthers), with the other 7 games spread out over the mid-fielders and the stragglers. If they can maintain the momentum of round 10 they could ultimately be primed to host a game come week 1 (although I have no doubt the NRL would devise some ridiculous reason for this to not be possible).
80 minutes of consistent, disciplined footy could see the Raiders on their way to defying the fates.
Raiders by 10!