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Friday, July 23, 2021

Canberra Raiders predicted round one team for 2021

After the Canberra Raiders trial matches last weekend, it seemed like the perfect time to have make yet another predicted team for round one.

The Raiders picked an inexperienced side for the NSW Cup trial against the North Sydney Bears before an almost full-strength side ran out for the first half of the NRL trial against the Sydney Roosters.

Unlike last year, the Raiders have a rather clean bill of health with only Jarrod Croker listed on the injury list and is touch and go for round one.

Both Corey Horsburgh and Corey Harawaira-Naera have been suspended for separate drink-driving offences by the NRL and won’t be available for selection.

So, let’s take a look at how the Canberra Raiders may line up when they take on the Wests Tigers at GIO Stadium Canberra on Sunday 14 March.

UPDATE: Check out the Raiders round one side here.

The Back Five

  • Fullback – Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad
  • Left Wing – Jordan Rapana
  • Left Centre – Seb Kris (Croker if fit)
  • Right Centre – Curtis Scott
  • Right Wing – Bailey Simonsson

Croker did not play a trial due to his recovery from injury, although he has just been given the all-clear to resume full training so may be available for round one.

If Croker is indeed out, Harley Smith-Shields, Matt Timoko and Seb Kris are the three fighting for his spot at left centre.

Kris seems to have his nose in front after starting the NRL trial and putting in a strong performance.

Smith-Shields was also impressive at left centre while Timoko was a little quieter.

Curtis Scott played a half in each trial and ran the ball strongly in a sign that he could be back to his best.

Interestingly, Rapana lined up on the left wing while Simonsson was on the right in the trial which is the opposite to their usual sides.

Simonsson even said he was expecting to line up on the right wing in round one.

Nicoll-Klokstad was solid as usual at fullback and even chimed into the line with some quick hands, something he hasn’t done much of in the past.

Jarrod Croker looks on with son Rory during the trials
Jarrod Croker looks on with son Rory during the trials as he races the clock to be fit for round one. Image: Getty

The Halves

  • Five-Eighth – Jack Wighton
  • Halfback – George Williams

The halves pick themselves with Jack Wighton and George Williams set to team up again.

The 2020 Dally M Medalist Wighton looked in tremendous touch in the 35 minutes he played.

His high kicks caused James Tedesco some issues and he also crossed for a try before being taken off to a huge reception from the crowd.

Williams was outstanding in his debut NRL season last year and his combination with Wighton will only improve. He will also have the goal kicking duties if Croker is unavailableJack Wighton

The Front Row

  • Prop – Josh Papalii
  • Hooker – Josh Hodgson
  • Prop – Dunamis Lui

Papalii only played the first half in the NRL trial and looked the same player who won Dally M prop of the year in 2020.

Lui copped a knock to the head at the end of the NSW Cup trial and didn’t play in the main trial.

He’s coming off a career best year where he represented Queensland and has a good partnership with Papalii so deserves to start.

Hodgson was one of the biggest positives to come out of the trial and looks fully recovered from his ACL injury.

He was his usual crafty self out of dummy half and even showed some pace to break the line which led to a try. Looks like he could play the full 80 minutes, just depends on whether they want to ease him back into the NRL grind.

The Back Row

  • Right Edge Second Row – Hudson Young
  • Left Edge Second Row – Elliott Whitehead
  • Lock – Joe Tapine
QUEANBEYAN, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 27: Angus Crichton of the Roosters is tackled by Hudson Young of the Raiders during the NRL trial Match between the Sydney Roosters and the Canberra Raiders at Seiffert Oval on February 27, 2021 in Queanbeyan, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)
Hudson Young looks set for a big year in the second row after impressing against the Roosters. Image: Getty

There are some big shoes to fill in the back row with John Bateman leaving, but Hudson Young seems more than capable.

He was fantastic in the trial and looked a threat on the edge numerous times. He hits the ball at real pace, runs smart lines and is strong defensively. Michael Ennis and Bateman have even earmarked him as a potential NSW player in the near future. He looks set for a huge year.

Whitehead has been super consistent in his time at the Raiders and has shown no signs of slowing down.

Tapine is coming off a career year playing lock and will no doubt be there again in round one.

The Bench

  • Siliva Havili or Tom Starling
  • Sia Soliola
  • Ryan James
  • Emre Guler

The makeup of the bench is where Ricky Stuart will have most of his work cut out for him.

The Starling or Havili selection may come down to how confident they are of Hodgson playing the full 80 minutes.

Starling outperformed Havili in the dummy-half role last year but Havili adds extra versatility to the side with his ability to play as a middle forward.

Starling would provide more spark coming off the bench but leaning towards the versatility of Havili for round one.

James played almost 80 minutes of game time between the two trials in his first competitive hit out in almost two years.

He said himself that he felt a bit rusty for the first 20 minutes but worked his way into the contest nicely.

He certainly put his hand up for selection and will most likely be on the bench for round one.

Soliola started the NRL trial and the 34-year-old looked in as good a shape as ever. A much-loved member of the team, he adds plenty of experience and toughness to the side.

Guler played in both trials and looked strong after missing the majority of last season.

There is plenty of competition for spots in the middle forward rotation with Papalii and Tapine the only locks. With Harawira-Naera and Horsburgh suspended, Ryan Sutton and either Starling or Havili also missing out on the 17, there is clearly plenty of depth at the Raiders in 2021.

Full predicted Canberra Raiders team for round one

  1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad
  2. Jordan Rapana
  3. Seb Kris (Croker if fit)
  4. Curtis Scott
  5. Bailey Simonsson
  6. Jack Wighton
  7. George Williams
  8. Josh Papalii
  9. Josh Hodgson
  10. Dunamis Lui
  11. Hudson Young
  12. Elliott Whitehead
  13. Joe Tapine
  14. Siliva Havili or Tom Starling
  15. Sia Soliola
  16. Ryan James
  17. Emre Guler

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