The Canberra Raiders will face an almighty challenge to get back on the winner’s list when they face the Sydney Roosters at the SCG tonight, 16 July.
It will be the first time these teams have faced off since last year’s controversy-filled Grand Final, but this match will have a different feel to it than last year’s decider.
While 82,688 people were in attendance for the Grand Final last year, with the current NSW State Government guidelines, the SCG will operate with a significantly reduced capacity.
The reduced capacity will likely suit the Roosters as they are used to playing in front of empty stadiums.
Another difference will be the players that run out on the field, as the Raiders are without eight players from last year’s grand final and the Roosters have five changes.
Josh Hodgson is the most significant injury for the Raiders, and they have opted for a two-pronged solution to cover his absence.
Siliva Havili replaced Hodgson when he went down last week and did a good job so has been named to start at hooker, while Tom Starling will play his first game of the year and come off the bench to provide relief for Havili.
The challenge will be made even tougher for the Raiders as they will be playing off a five-day break compared to the Roosters’ seven and have faced some issues with travel exemption.
The Raiders were denied the opportunity to stay in a hotel in Sydney the night before the game and were originally scheduled to bus to Sydney before the NRL eventually granted them permission to fly, but only after Paul Kent raised the issue on NRL 360, which clearly angered Ricky Stuart.
“It shouldn’t take that,” Stuart said on NRL 360 when asked if Kent’s comments made the difference.
“It’s something that shouldn’t be about me blowing up in the media or Paul saying what he said in regards to what I think is getting treated fairly.
“Historically we haven’t been treated as fairly as other clubs and it is my job as a coach who looks after his club and his players to do everything I can for my team.”
“But it is also a great game for the fans and supporters to watch and it should be treated on a fairer basis in regards to the turnaround.
“But it is not and we will get on with it. But I have to acknowledge Peter V’landys for fixing it and we are now able to fly in and fly out, which should be the norm for any elite professional sporting team.”
The Roosters have a few injuries of their own, but they also get some star players back.
Skipper Boyd Cordner, Brett Morris and Isaac Liu all return to the starting side for the Roosters who have won five of their past six matches and are favourites to win their third premiership in a row.
Jack Wighton vs Luke Keary
Two of the best five-eights in the competition to face-off and it should be great viewing. Wighton has been in great form for the Raiders and his running game is always dangerous for the opposition. Wighton was judged the best player in last year’s Grand Final so the Roosters know how dangerous he can be. Keary has been in great form for the Roosters and poses a threat with his running, passing and kicking game. He leads the team expertly and will almost certainly be the NSW five-eighth when State of Origin comes around.
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad vs James Tedesco
Nicoll-Klokstad made a couple of crucial errors in last week’s loss to the Storm but has been superb in his season and a half in the nation’s capital. I’m sure he will be itching for the opportunity to make amends in another big match for the Raiders. James Tedesco was recently voted the best player in the NRL by his peers and it’s easy to see why. Tedesco has been in scintillating form this season and just keeps on getting better. He’s so threatening when he runs the ball, and his passing game has become just as lethal.
|1||Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad||1||James Tedesco|
|2||Nick Cotric||2||Matt Ikuvalu|
|3||Jarrod Croker||3||Josh Morris|
|4||Michael Oldfield||4||Joseph Manu|
|5||Jordan Rapana||5||Brett Morris|
|6||Jack Wighton||6||Luke Keary|
|7||George Williams||7||Kyle Flanagan|
|8||Josh Papalii||8||Jared Waerea-Hargreaves|
|9||Siliva Havili||9||Jake Friend|
|10||Dunamis Lui||10||Siosiua Taukeiaho|
|11||Hudson Young||11||Boyd Cordner|
|12||Elliott Whitehead||12||Angus Crichton|
|13||Joe Tapine||13||Isaac Liu|
|14||Tom Starling||14||Lachlan Lam|
|15||Kai O’Donnell||15||Sitili Tupouniua|
|16||Ryan Sutton||16||Mitchell Aubusson|
|17||Semi Valemei||17||Lindsay Collins|
|18||Darby Medlyn||18||Poasa Faamausili|
|19||Sam Williams||19||Ryan Hall|