The Raiders got off to a bumpy, albeit winning start in round 1. Neither they not the Tigers where anything near fluid in the first half, the stuttering attack of both teams keeping the score low. In the second half something clicked and the Raiders began running tries, eventually overwhelming Wests.
It’s this second half platform that the Green Machine must build upon when they take on the Sharks in the final game of round 2. Cronulla put the Dragons away with little trouble in round 1, and they present a more realistic challenge for Canberra to overcome.
Stuart has picked the same 17 that got the job done last week, with Croker expected back in the next few weeks (lengthy outs for senior players are to expected as they move into the veteran years). The consistency is a plus for Canberra, giving them another solid 80 to sharpen and expand upon the connections that Dan covered post match last week.
BIG BOPPER WATCH
Hudson Young vs Wade Graham
Canberra’s young gun vs the seasoned campaigner. Young was clearly generating a lot of momentum against the Tigers, and I don’t think it will be too long before the talk about him having to fill Bateman’s role in the side moves to him absolutely dominating said role. Graham remains one of the Sharks key assets, particularly in attack where he has range from tough hit-up to delicate grubber in behind the defence.
Josh Hodgson vs Blayke Brailey
The master 9 is still warming to his return to first grade, which means he still has an absolute stack of plays up his sleeve. Expect more “Sleight of sight” from Hodgson as he gets back into the habit of looking one side only to send the ball somewhere else. Brailey is one of those young rakes in the midfield of talent in the NRL, but the Raiders ruck defence still need to be awake to any darts from dummy half.
BACK IT UP
Jordan Rapana vs Josh Dugan
Canberra’s current senior back against a former Canberra truant. Rapana managed to have big input in the round 1 win despite some pretty pedestrian stats – it was the nature of when and where he injected himself into play, no better example than him having the presence of mind to pop his foot out on a restart to get the Raiders straight into the attack. Dugan continues to put in good numbers for the Sharks but the spectre of injury always shadows him.
BENCHMARK TO BEAT
Ryan Sutton/James vs Aiden Tolman
I’m bending the rules a bit here but both Ryans deserve praise after their efforts last week. James was inspirational steaming in and through the Tigers line to score on debut, while Sutton has benefitted greatly from his off-season conditioning. Tolman is in the end-zone of his career but can still supply oomph for the Sharks upfront.
LAST TIME THEY MET
The Raiders and Sharks faced off in consecutive games last year, with Canberra taking the wins in the final season round and week 1 of the finals. Although they made the finals the Sharks couldn’t beat any of the top 8 sides throughout the season.
Raider #323 Jeremy Hawkins
Hawkins made but a handful of appearances for the Green Machine back in the 2014/15 seasons (5 games according to Raiders.com.au/ 7 according to Wikipedia). He spent most of his time. Despite signing an extension in 2015 he was released to join the Storm at year’s end. These days he now plays for the Redcliffe Dolphins in the QRL. Dan and Sportress alumni Ben were obsessed with him because he had a hair cut like Rufio from the movie “Hook” but they’re dumb and wrong.
THE FINAL SIREN
It’s Canberra’s first away game, but they should have the confidence and skill to take the win over Cronulla. The Sharks boast a big pack (sans Fifita) but this just makes them more vulnerable to the fleet-footed forwards in green. Look for the Raiders to pummel through the middle before sending Young and Tapine at weak points on the edges.
Raiders by 10!