The Raiders will aim for their fourth straight victory over the Melbourne Storm when they face off at GIO Stadium Canberra tomorrow night, Saturday 11 July.
The last meeting between these sides was back in round three with the Raiders winning comfortably, 22-6.
Many were tipping the Raiders to win the premiership after that win, but since then their form has been inconsistent, winning only two of their past five matches.
The Raiders looked backed to their best last week when they led the Dragons 22-0 early in the second half, but a late fade-out almost cost them victory and they will need to play a full 80 minutes to beat the Storm.
The win was soured by serious injuries to Sia Soliola and Emre Guler, who join John Bateman and Corey Horsburgh on the sidelines for an extended period, posing a challenge for the remaining Raider forwards.
The injuries have created an opportunity for young Kai O’Donnell to become Raider #365 and make his first-grade debut.
O’Donnell has been brought in along with Dunamis Lui to cover for the injured forwards, while Jordan Rapana has been named on the bench in place of Curtis Scott.
The Storm are coming off a thrilling golden point win over the Roosters in what many people are calling the match of the season.
Cameron Smith spent a lot of that match playing in the halves but has been named at hooker this week, although a late change from the Storm wouldn’t surprise at all.
The only out for the Storm is Suliasi Vunivalu with a hamstring injury; he has been replaced on the wing by Marion Seve.
The other selection from the Storm to note is Cam Munster being named on the reserves list.
Munster injured his knee two weeks ago and was expected to miss a month of action so it would be a big shock if he is a late call-up.
Josh Hodgson (Raiders) vs Cam Smith (Storm)
After their previous meeting, Hodgson was declared the most influential hooker in the game but since that game, Smith has clearly outperformed him. Hodgson’s usual creativity hasn’t been there and has been part of the reason behind the Raiders lack of scoring. Meanwhile, Smith has been outstanding for the Storm and whether he plays in the halves or at hooker, Smith remains the key cog in their attack.
The battle of the middle forwards
Plenty has been spoken about the injuries to the Raiders forward pack but there is still enough talent and experience to match it with the Storm. Ricky Stuart put it on his rep players to lift in the absence of others, so Josh Papalii and Joe Tapine, in particular, now have plenty of pressure on them to be at their best. The Storm boast a strong pack and with Jesse Bromwich, Dale Finucane, Tino Faasuamaleaui and Nelson Asofa-Solomona, they have enough size to trouble any team’s middle defence.
|1||Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad||1||Ryan Papenhuyzen|
|2||Nick Cotric||2||Marion Seve|
|3||Jarrod Croker||3||Justin Olam|
|4||Michael Oldfield||4||Paul Momirovski|
|5||Bailey Simonsson||5||Josh Addo-Carr|
|6||Jack Wighton||6||Ryley Jacks|
|7||George Williams||7||Jahrome Hughes|
|8||Josh Papalii||8||Jesse Bromwich|
|9||Josh Hodgson||9||Cameron Smith|
|10||Dunamis Lui||10||Christian Welch|
|11||Hudson Young||11||Felise Kaufusi|
|12||Elliott Whitehead||12||Kenneath Bromwich|
|13||Joe Tapine||13||Dale Finucane|
|14||Siliva Havili||14||Brandon Smith|
|15||Kai O’Donnell||15||Tino Faasuamaleaui|
|16||Ryan Sutton||16||Tom Eisenhuth|
|17||Jordan Rapana||17||Nelson Asofa-Solomona|
|18||Tom Starling||18||Darryn Schonig|
|19||Matt Frawley||19||Cameron Munster|
|20||Darby Medlyn||20||Brenko Lee|
|21||Curtis Scott||21||Nicho Hynes|