To say that the Raiders have a had a bumpy start to the 2021 campaign is something of an understatement. Sitting 3-2 the Raiders probably feel like they could be fairing better if not for the horror luck against the Warriors and more recently the Panthers. That luck was compounded this week with the news that the fullback you would take home to mum, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, would be sidelined for an extended period.
Successful teams are those that can dust themselves off and regroup, in spite of key injuries. The Raiders find themselves at this junction. The Eels present an opportunity for the Green Machine to bounce back, but it won’t be a cake walk by any means.
Coach Stuart raised eyebrows with his team list on Tuesday, the notable omission being Sebastian Kris. This first round list should be taken with a grain of salt, as Stuart is well known for tinkering with his 17 in the lead up to game day. Ryan James is being given a well earned rest, with Stuart seemingly looking to preserve his output for later in the season. Emre Guler makes a welcome return, and I personally am keen to see what he can bring in terms of mobility and strength.
The Eels got straight ambushed by a resurgent Dragons outfit in round five. After starting the season 4-0 they’ll be looking to get back on top as quickly as possible, and the Raiders need to be prepared for physical encounter from the kick off.
BIG BOPPER WATCH
Joseph Tapine vs Nathan Brown
A tall timber lock with golden footwork vs a traditional barrel chested bowling ball. Tapine can be lethal if given room at the line, and the Raiders will be looking for him to either lean through and get an arm free or generate proper line breaks. Brown is of the “Crash through” variety, bending the line until it snaps.
George Williams vs Mitchell Moses
If there was ever a moment for the good half of Williams to shine it’s now. While he’s not in a full-blown sophomore slump he’s also not laser focused and it’s showing. To be frank I’d be pleased with 80 minutes where he doesn’t run sideways. Canberra can’t afford to let Moses get settled close to the 20 unless they want to spend time defusing grubbers and cross-field chips.
BACK IT UP
Caleb Aekins vs Clint Gutherson
Former Panther Aekins gets his chance to show Stuart he’s a reliable backup for CNK, not an easy task. I know precisely nothing about him going into this, but if he has anything near the work ethic of CNK he should go well. Gutherson has been a try-stopping freak for the Eels so far and the Raiders need to be wary of him foiling potential tries.
BENCHMARK TO BEAT
Stuart is renowned for trying out as many unforced combinations as he can early on. Starling remains on the pine for that late game spark, a choice that relies on not much going wrong personnel wise during a match. Kaufusi and Papali’i provide the impact for Parramatta, an intriguing matchup against Guler and Sutton.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET
The Eels snuck home by a field goal in round 7 of the 2020 season, the only time these two teams crossed paths last year – you can expect an equally tough contest this round.
Raider #70 Les Morrissey
Imported from Collinsville in the QRL (citation needed) Morrissey clocked up 19 games for the Raiders from 1985-87, scoring one try for the club in 1987. After this he played four seasons with the now-merged Illawarra Steelers. Like many of his peers from this era information remains scarce, apart from some footy cards on google images.
THE FINAL SIREN
The Raiders need to connect in this game, structurally and mentally. They’ve managed to clunk this far in ok but it’s clear that the Green Machine needs to start finding higher gears – Parramatta are certainly not pushovers.
Raiders with a reboot 4pt win!