Match day guide and preview for the Canberra Raiders Round 14 home game against the Brisbane Broncos.
The Raiders host the Broncos in Canberra this weekend fresh off the bye and will look to give their loyal home fans something to cheer about on Saturday night, having not won at GIO since they bounced the tigers in round one.
A lot has changed since the rosy days of round one as the club has slid from premiership contender to cellar dweller; with fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad out injured for the year, halfback George Williams gone, and Josh Hodgson vacating his captaincy.
Despite the Raiders dismal home record in 2021, the Broncos away record is worse at one win for seven losses this year; in fact Brisbane have lost 16 of their past 17 games away from home.
Forward pack leaders Josh Papalii and Joseph Tapine return from suspension and injury respectively as the suspended Ryan James and injured Corey Horsburgh both make way.
Exciting 21-year-old outside back Matt Timoko will play his first match of NRL since round 20 last year at right centre, replacing Curtis Scott.
Bailey Simonsson has been named at fullback with Caleb Aetkins dropped to reserves. Simonsson last wore the number 1 for the Raiders against the Warriors in 2019.
Semi Valemei will play on the left wing outside Sebastian Kris after missing the round 12 match against the Roosters due to a hamstring complaint.
Jack Wighton has been named in the side and will be assessed following his appearance for NSW in State of Origin tomorrow night.
For Brisbane, all eyes will be on Karmichael Hunt as he returns to the NRL arena for his first match since 2009.
Herbie Farnworth has been named at fullback for Brisbane, with Jamayne Isaako dropped from the squad.
View the full team lists here.
Last five meetings
Round 14 2020: Raiders 36 – Broncos 8
Round 6 2019: Raiders 26 – Broncos 22
Round 16 2018: Broncos 26 – Raiders 22
Round 16 2017: Broncos 30 – Raiders 20
Round 4 2017: Broncos 13 – Raiders 12
Aside from last year’s drubbing, recent matches between the Raiders and Broncos have been close of late despite the Broncos historically having the wood over Canberra with a 20-14 win-loss record.
Should the Green Machine get up, it will mark three consecutive wins over the Broncos for the first time since 1994-95.
Let’s revisit last year’s drubbing and remember when the Raiders were a force to be reckoned with …
The players to watch
After watching his beloved Queensland middle forward unit wilt away against NSW in Origin I in a similar fashion to his Raiders pack this year, Papalii will return from suspension with a purpose this weekend, fresh as a tall, cold glass of Canberra Milk.
“I’m pretty pumped,” Papalii told the media this week, ““I’m just happy to be back on Sunday.”
After sitting out a match earlier in the season, Papalii said his suspension was like a “three-week holiday” that allowed him to spend time with his family and get a bit of training in too.
“I think I was just the example of that weekend … hopefully no more three-week holidays,” he smiled.
So far this season Papalii hasn’t delivered at the lofty standards fans have come to expect from the Queensland and Kangaroos mainstay – Papalii averages 135 running metres a game compared to the 147 and 148 metre a game output he registered in 2019 and 2020 respectively and missing 10 tackles in 9 matches compared to 13 in 22 matches last season.
“I’ve been in sort of up and down form this year, and I could probably speak on behalf of the whole club as well,” he said.
It is hoped the return of pack leaders Papalii and Tapine will tighten up the Raiders middle third and give their side some much needed field position.
It will have been 11 years, 8 months and 17 days between games when Hunt pulls on the Broncos jersey this weekend. Having last suited up for Brisbane amongst a star-studded team featuring the likes of Lockyer, Hodges, Thaiday, Parker and Folau, it’s safe to say the side he’s coming in to doesn’t quite have the same status.
At 34, while past his prime, Hunt will bring the stability and footy smarts you’d expect from an elite footballer with 17 seasons under his belt, and makes up a veteran halves pairing with fellow old-boy Albert Kelly.
Speaking to the media ahead of the match, Hunt said his coach Kevin Walter has instructed him to “go out there and be the leader that I am”.
“Use my voice, direct the boys around the park with Albie (Kelly) and defend well,” he said.
“Obviously it’s been a while since I played rugby league at the top level, so I’m interested to see the pace of the game and just get a feel for everything.”
Facing off against Jack Wighton in his return game will be a baptism of fire for Hunt, with Wighton sure to test his defence out with his trademark bullocking runs.
2021 hasn’t quite panned out for Simonsson how many would have expected given his debut season in 2019 that saw him jag eight tries on the wing outside Jarrod Croker and play in a grand final. The big-bodied, athletic winger has struggled to break the line and get himself into space this year, only having one line break and two tries to his name in 12 matches.
Simonsson has generally shown safe hands under the highball and can make a dint on kick returns. It will be interesting to see how he chimes in in attack with the license to roam afforded to a fullback and whether he can get himself into space and add to his line break tally.
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad is out for the rest of the season and Caleb Aetkins has made way after some lacklustre defensive positional play, a drop in running metres output, and a lack of speed. All this has led to Simonsson getting his shot in the pivotal custodial role, and Raiders fans will be eager to see if he can stand up and deliver.
It will be a big test for Simonsson, who told the Daily Telegraph before the 2020 season that he’d like to wear the number one jersey long term.
“I do want to play fullback, 100 per cent. That’s my favourite spot to play,” he said.
Cracker Jack: Wighton to have a cracker welcoming Karmichael Hunt back to the NRL, earning at least one line break and three tackle breaks. – Denholm Samaras
The Timoko Show: Matt Timoko to bag a double. – Vincent Samaras
Other match details
Raiders v Broncos will be broadcast live on Fox League Channel 502 at 7.30pm. You can also stream it live on KAYO.
Listen to the game on MIX (106.3), Radio 2CC Canberra (1206AM) and 666 ABC Canberra.
Gates Open: 5.05pm
NSW Cup – Raiders v Sea Eagles: 5.15pm
This week’s Viking Ambassador is Raider #31 Angel Marina. Angel was a foundation player for the club and played 22 games for the Raiders from 1982-1985.