The Raiders finally muscled their way into the winners club last week, holding on against a feisty Sharks line-up in searing conditions. Their best footy happened in the forty minutes either side of halftime, and it’s something that they’ll need to expand upon this round in Newcastle. The Knights meanwhile suffered the same fate as Canberra at the hands of the Dolphins, failing to contain them in the second half and losing.
If last week was a foot in the door for the Milk then this week is all about momentum. Confidence is a massive boon early in the season as it usually leads to both competition points and a healthy points differential which are a handy buffer if the wheels come loose later in the year.
Team list thoughts
Big Papa retakes his spot in the starting 13, having finally overcome the calf issue keeping him out. This sees Trey Mooney drop all the way back to NSW Cup with Pasami Saulo taking a spot on the bench. With Danny Levi joining Savage on the busted jaw list Zac Woolford steps back into the starting 9 spot, which will probably be a relief to Starling after he played nearly the entire game in last week’s oven. It’ll be interesting to see how Sticky balances these two in rotation. Does he a) bench Woolford for Starling at the 25-30 minute mark, or does he keep Woolford on and bring Starling in as a small lock? Starling demonstrated a refinement in his passing game against the Sharks with two passes being launched off the turf straight into the hands of a playmaker or try scorer on point-scoring plays.
Backline vs backline. With the exception of Dane Gagai this is a battle of two sets of very young back five players. Kris is still in the process of getting across his brief in the fullback role, but his enthusiasm in kick returns and yardage is good stuff. Timoko and Hopoate seem almost wise beyond their years. Smith-Shields continues his reintegration into top flight footy, while Schiller is unafraid of trying a bit of razzle out on the wing. Sure there are mistakes, because footy, but compared to some previous backline iterations this one is pretty solid. They will have their work cut out for them though, particularly against Bradman Best who can be a real handful if he finds a way through the edge defence. Best will be squaring off against Timoko and Schiller, but I’m confident that Timoko can keep a watchful eye on him.
If the Raiders can get on top early they can really put the Knights to the sword. The Novocastrians are facing down a burgeoning injury list and it’s the perfect time for the Raiders to roll out 80 minutes of competent football.
Raiders by 12+!
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