Match day guide and preview for the Raiders NRL Round 9 game against the Knights in Wagga Wagga.
Who, when and where?
Canberra Raiders vs Newcastle Knights
Saturday 8 May, 3pm. Gates open 10.45am.
McDonald’s Park Wagga Wagga, NSW
Tickets have been exhausted for this match.
All time head to head record: Played 53. Raiders 28. Knights 21. Draws 4.
Ladder position and recent form
Canberra Raiders 9th | 157 points for | 185 points against | 3 wins & 5 losses | LLLLW
The Raiders recent form has been incredibly poor, with the club losing four straight matches for the first time since 2018. That also extends out to five losses in their past six games.
Canberra were one of the best defensive teams over 2019 and 2020 but have conceded an average of 31.25 points per game over their four game losing streak.
Their second half fade outs have been of particular concern having been outscored 69-8 after the break in their past four matches.
They were good against the Rabbitohs last week for much of the contest, but a 20 minute lapse at the start of the second half cost them the match.
Canberra are not only struggling on the field but are currently having their difficulties away from it as well.
Josh Hodgson recently stepped down from being captain amid reports of a heated argument with coach Ricky Stuart after their loss to Parramatta in Round 6. George Williams is dealing with homesickness and Joe Tapine’s wife had a go at Stuart via Instagram.
Times like these can either make or break clubs and we may learn plenty about this Raiders team on Saturday afternoon.
Newcastle Knights 11th | 137 points for | 204 points against | 3 wins & 5 losses | LLWLL
The Knights haven’t been much better than the Raiders in recent weeks, having lost five of their past six matches as well.
Two weeks ago, they were competitive against the Panthers for the first 70 minutes before being run over late. However, last week they were completely smacked by the Roosters in a 38-4 loss at home.
They are in a similar position to the Raiders in needing a victory here to regain momentum before it’s too late.
Josh Papalii is the big-name inclusion for the Raiders, returning after being rested last week.
His inclusion sees Ryan James drop out of the 17 and onto the extended bench.
George Williams (hamstring) and Sebastian Kris (ankle) have both been named after passing fitness tests.
Williams’ inclusion sees Elliott Whitehead shift back to the second row, Hudson Young to the bench and Sia Soliola drop out of the squad.
The Knights have been dealt a blow with halfback Blake Green out with a rib injury.
Green has been replaced at number 7 by Phoenix Crossland while Hymel Hunt returns on the wing.
Lachlan Fitzgibbon and Tex Hoy have been named on the extended bench, opening the possibility for their returns from injury.
Last 5 meetings
- 2020 Round 4: Raiders 18 – 34 Knights at Campbelltown Stadium
- 2019 Round 3: Raiders 17 – 10 Knights at GIO Stadium
- 2018 Round 2: Raiders 28 – 30 Knights at GIO Stadium
- 2017 Round 25: Raiders 46 – 28 Knights at GIO Stadium
- 2017 Round 10: Knights 34 – 20 Raiders at McDonald Jones Stadium
The Knights edge the Raiders 3-2 in their last five contests, including taking the points in their only meeting in 2020.
Newcastle dominated Canberra in Campbelltown with Kalyn Ponga and Bradman Best wreaking havoc on the left edge.
Given the Raiders right edge defensive issues, Ponga and Best could once again team up to cause carnage down their left side.
There have been plenty of points in their recent encounters and that could continue on Saturday given both sides have conceded an average of over 30 points per game over the last month.
The players to watch
Raiders – Josh Papalii
Papalii has become one of the best front rowers in the game over 2019 and 2020, but the champion forward has had an underwhelming start to 2021.
He had looked flat at times this season which is why he was rested against the Bunnies last week in a hope he can return to his best.
He has become somewhat of a barometer for the side as when he’s up and going, the rest of the team follows.
Watch for him to have a massive impact in this game and lead his side to a much-needed victory.
Knights – Bradman Best
As mentioned before, Best torched the Raiders in their corresponding game last season, scoring two tries to go along with two try assists.
Still at just 19-years-old, Best is one of the most damaging centres in the game with his combination of speed and power a handful for any opposing centre.
He would still be giving Curtis Scott nightmares after giving him a bath last season and given his prowess attacking down the left edge, he could cause the Raiders struggling defence all sorts of issues.
Who’s your Papa?: Josh Papalii to show the Knights middle forwards who’s boss on his return. Running for over 175 metres and crossing for a try.
Aeky-breaky heart: Caleb Aekins to break the hearts of the knights faithful with two try assists. – Denholm Samaras
Other game details
There are two other matches scheduled at McDonald’s Park before the NRL Game:
- Women’s Country Championship: Riverina v Newcastle-Maitland 11.00am
- NSW Cup: Raiders v Knights 12.40pm
The NRL match is live on Fox League Channel 502 at 3pm. You can also stream it live on KAYO.