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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Raiders round 8 preview: Home at last

The Canberra Raiders will make their long-awaited return to GIO Stadium tonight, 3 July, as they host the St George Illawarra Dragons in a crucial match.

The Raiders were forced to play their home games at Campbelltown Stadium when the season recommenced in late May, but have finally been given approval to host games in Canberra.

The return home is a much-needed boost for the Raiders, as they look to avoid their third straight loss.

The Raiders were premiership favourites a few weeks ago but back-to-back losses against Manly and Parramatta has seen them drop to 7th on the ladder.

The Raiders were dealt a huge blow during the week with news Corey Horsburgh could potentially miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery on his foot for a Lisfranc injury, while Jordan Rapana is out of this match with a minor calf injury.

The loss of Horsburgh has been mitigated by the return of Joe Tapine, who takes his position at lock, while Rapana has been replaced on the wing by Bailey Simonsson.

The major team news comes with Ricky Stuart shifting off-season recruit Curtis Scott to the bench after struggling for form since the season restarted.

Hopefully, a different role in the team can see Scott regain some confidence and return to his best form.

The Dragons have named an unchanged side for tonight’s game with coach Paul McGregor clearly pleased with his side’s recent form.

The Dragons were under enormous pressure early in the season after dropping their first four games but then won their next two before a respectable loss against the Roosters last week.

Despite sitting 12th on the ladder, if the Dragons are at their best, they have enough quality players to really challenge the Raiders.

Key matchups

Elliott Whitehead (Raiders) vs Tyson Frizell (Dragons)

Whitehead is perhaps the most underrated player in the competition. He continually delivers solid defence and poses a threat in attack. He has crossed for five tries this season and his dummy to set up a try last week was a thing of beauty. His opponent this week is also highly talented with Frizell’s powerful running game a real weapon for the Dragons.

Curtis Scott (Raiders) vs Ben Hunt (Dragons)

These guys are obviously two completely different sorts of players, but both have had serious pressure placed on them this season and are now starting on the bench. Scott’s shift to the 14 will hopefully release some stress and it will be fascinating to see how much game time he gets. Hunt has been coming on as the dummy half for the Dragons and it looks like his best position. He seems to be playing with less stress after losing the number 7 jersey, so perhaps Scott can do the same.

Full teams:

Raiders Dragons 
1Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad1Matthew Dufty
2Bailey Simonsson2Jason Saab
3Jarrod Croker3Euan Aitken
4Michael Oldfield4Zac Lomax
5Nick Cotric5Mikaele Ravalawa
6Jack Wighton6Corey Norman
7George Williams7Adam Clune
8Josh Papalii8Blake Lawrie
9Josh Hodgson9Cameron McInnes
10Iosia Soliola10Paul Vaughan
11Hudson Young11Tyson Frizell
12Elliott Whitehead12Tyrell Fuimaono
13Joe Tapine13Trent Merrin
 Bench Bench
14Curtis Scott14Ben Hunt
15Emre Guler15Josh Kerr
16Ryan Sutton16Korbin Sims
17Siliva Havili17Jackson Ford
 Reserves Reserves
18Tom Starling18Eddie Blacker
19Dunamis Lui19Tristan Sailor
20Matt Frawley20Billy Brittain
21Kai O’Donnell21Timoteo Lafai

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