The poor Raiders just can’t catch a break in 2021. Though they rejoined the winners circle in Magic round (albeit through a clunky two point win over the Dogs) victory came with a hefty price tag. Caught out by the NRL’s chaotic crackdown on illegal contact Papalii, Wighton and Hodgson all found themselves taking the early guilty plea rather than contesting charges at the judiciary.
The three suspensions couldn’t have come at a worse time. The Raiders could barely beat the Dogs, and now they face the reigning premiers. In the words of Chief Wiggum “this is going to get worse before it gets better”.
Raiders fans do not like being told they can’t win, but I’m going to be honest with you, this game is such a Mission: Impossible that ten seconds after you finish reading this Rumble it will self destruct.
The Storm themselves are missing key players in Papenhuyzen and Munster, but their meticulously coached structures mean this will be but a mild inconvenience for them to overcome. The Raiders on the other hand will need every fibre of football experience they have to prevail.
BIG BOPPER WATCH
Dunamis Lui vs Jesse Bromwich
Lui made a welcome return to the side last week, even pulling off one of his now trademark steals in the opening sets. He’ll need to be at his rampaging best if he hopes to break a Melbourne defence that aims to smother and slow ruck speed. Bromwich is a seasoned vet who knows that the Storm thrive on the big metres he and his pack can generate.
Brad Schneider vs Chris Lewis
Confession: I know next to nothing of these two youngsters. By all accounts Schneider has been playing well in NSWcup and could help steer the Green Machine later in the game. Lewis must have some talent as Bellamy is not prone to picking duds just for the hell of it.
BACK IT UP
Semi Valemei vs Josh Addo-Carr
Valemei was one of Canberra’s best last round – his extra effort run to avoid getting trapped in-goal is the stuff that makes coaches quietly a bit prouder inside. JAC remains a high-scoring speed demon – woe betide the defender who doesn’t mark up properly on him.
BENCHMARK TO BEAT
Ryan Sutton vs Nelson Asofa-Solomona
A true battle of giants this, with both sides hoping that their tall timber units can crash through some tired defence when they come on. Sutton has been much improved for Canberra this year, while the Raiders defence will need to work overtime to contain NAS.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET
The two sides met in the 2020 preliminary. Exhausted from destroying the Roosters dreams the Raiders were unable to match the rested Storm, Melbourne taking a 24-0 lead before Canberra scored, the game finishing 30-10 to the Storm.
Raider #3 Gerry De La Cruz
The first ever Filipino heritage player to play in the then NSWRL DLC played just four games for Canberra in their inaugural season in 1982. While his playing career was tragically cut short by a broken arm he holds the distinction of scoring the Raiders first ever try (back then worth three points) in a loss to the Bunnies.
THE FINAL SIREN
Beating the Storm with your top three out isn’t the Everest of challenges. It’s much more akin to trying to reach the bottom of the Marianas trench with nothing but a motorcycle helmet and some garden hose for the air supply.
Raiders by two after the Archangel Gabriel is a late addition to the 17