The Raiders have managed to glue together two wins for four points, leaving them in a select group of five teams unbeaten heading into round 3. Neither win was perfect, and it’s fair to say Canberra did well (enough) in the second half of round 1 and the first half of round 2.
Round 3 sees them back home against a Warriors side on the start of a run of bad luck. They’ve got the services of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck until years end, but have lost young gun Chanel Harris-Tavita for at least twelve weeks to a broken foot.
The Raiders themselves were lucky not to lose Hudson Young to a late game injury against the Sharks. This early in the season there’s nothing wrong with resting a player for a round to make sure they’re not vulnerable to a longer term problem. He’s been named to play so we must assume that Sticky and club physios are ok with it.
Round 3 sees Captain Croker return from his 2020 shoulder issue, which means that Sebastian Kris finds himself back in NSW Cup after an excellent two game outing.
The key for the Raiders this weekend is discipline. Their second half against Cronulla fell apart because they became something of a disorganised rabble – giving away cheap penalties and dropping plenty of ball. One in particular was Curtis Scott rushing in once a tackle transformed into mild biff – what would’ve been an error became a Sharks penalty. Stuart will no doubt be reading the riot act to his more fiery players.
BIG BOPPER WATCH
Ryan James vs Addin Fonua-Blake
Canberra’s new hero vs a regular villain. Ryan James isn’t just a feel good story, he’s a bonafide contributor – against the Sharks he managed 144m off 13 carries (including 46 post contact metres). Chuck in 25 tackles, a line break and 4 tackle breaks and you have a seasoned vet proving to be well worth it. Fonua-Blake is well known to Canberra fans and is moving up in the world, mostly because he is no longer a Sea-Eagle.
Josh Hodgson vs Wayde Egan
I honestly thought it would take Hodgo three to four weeks to get back in the groove, but his try assist for Young proved that cunning is probably more instinct than a learnt trait. He also came close to punching in a 40/20. Egan seems to be the latest in an assembly line of Warriors rakes (it feels like Isaac Luke was yesterday). I have no idea if he’s good but it’s mostly academic against Hodgson, who is now the top tier 9 in the league with Smith gone.
BACK IT UP
Jarrod Croker vs Peta Hiku
Croker is back and he has his work cut out for him in the form of Peta Hiku. Croker’s return ostensibly marks the start of the final leg of his career. Now 30 years old he has youngsters starting to knock on the door, and he’ll need to keep going at full capacity for several more seasons if he’s to ever challenge Smith’s all-time points record. Hiku is one of those quiet achievers who simply uses his frame and speed to get the job done and will need to be kept in check by the Raiders defence.
BENCHMARK TO BEAT
Siliva Havili vs Jazz Tevaga
Where would we be without Siliva? He’s arguably the Swiss army knife of the Raiders bench, able to swap into either hooker or lock at a moment’s notice. His appearance almost always sees an uptick in Raiders starch both in attack and defence. Tevaga is traditionally a lock but much like Havili can serve at dummy half if needed to.
LAST TIME THEY MET
The Raiders handed the Warriors defeat twice in 2020, the Green Machine taking the second victory in the penultimate round of the season.
Raider #135 David Furner
Furner needs no introduction here. A goal kicking second rower, he played 200 games for Canberra, racking up 1218 points along the way. He played for both NSW and Australia at rep level and post-Canberra headed to the superleague for stints with Wigan and Leeds. Furner eventually returned to Canberra and became head coach from 2009-2013, before being let go in favour of Ricky Stuart. Furner has since wound his way through assistant positions at the Cowboys, Newcastle, Souths and now the Bulldogs.
THE FINAL SIREN
Saturday at 3pm with mild conditions could be the perfect scenario for footy. The Raiders need to maintain discipline, as discussed, and this includes ball control. Against the Sharks too many players were guilty of throwing unnecessary passes. If they can maintain posession they should be able to set up camp in the Warriors half and exert some pressure.
Raiders by 12+!
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