CANBERRA RAIDERS v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Round 18, 2015 NRL Premiership
Date: Friday July 10, 7.45pm
Venue: GIO Stadium
Referee: Matt Cecchin
Last time they met:
The Raiders got one over the Knights in Round 13 with a 44-22 win at Hunter Stadium.
Of the 42 times these two sides have met, the Knights have won 18 times and drawn once.
1. Kurt Gidley (c), 2. James McManus, 3. Sione Mata'utia, 4. Dane Gagai, 5. Akuila Uate, 6. Jarrod Mullen, 7. Tyrone Roberts, 8. Kade Snowden, 9. Tyler Randell, 10. Korbin Sims, 11. Beau Scott, 12. Tariq Sims, 13. Jeremy Smith. Bench: 14. Danny Levi, 15. Dave Fa’alogo, 16. Joseph Tapine, 17. Sam Mataora, 18. Paterika Vaivai, 19. Chanel Mata’utia.
1. Jack Wighton, 2. Edrick Lee, 3. Jarrod Croker (c), 4. Sisa Waqa, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Blake Austin, 7. Sam Williams, 8. Paul Vaughan, 9. Josh Hodgson, 10. David Shillington, 11. Josh Papalii, 12. Iosia Soliola, 13. Shaun Fensom. Bench: 14. Kurt Baptiste, 15. Jarrad Kennedy, 16. Frank-Paul Nuuausala, 17. Shannon Boyd.
Canberra is a place that no NRL team enjoys visiting.
It’s not just that GIO Stadium is home to a Raiders side that can pull apart any team when they’re on song, it’s also notorious for the weather it can dish up in the middle of winter.
On Friday night the mercury is predicted to idle at 6 degrees with rain more than likely.
Assistant coach Craig Sandercock says that won’t bother the Knights though.
“It’s pretty cold, that’s for sure, but I think our boys are just keen to play some footy,” he says.
“It’s not the easiest place to go, but we’ve got some boys who’ve been out for a long time and would be happy to play anywhere at this point.”
Six players come in that didn’t play against the Broncos in the team’s last outing.
That number includes some of the Knights’ biggest performers in Jarrod Mullen, Kade Snowden and Jeremy Smith.
“Jeremy Smith has been missed for the last six weeks or so,” Sandercock explains.
“Jarrod and Tyrone Roberts are our number one halves pairing, and them coming back in is a big thing.
“So we are getting some troops back, although we are missing Robbie Rochow unfortunately after he broke his arm against the Broncos.”
The return of Mullen and Roberts will be the biggest boost for a Knights side that hasn’t won since Round 10.
Injecting the first-choice halves pairing into any NRL side will transform the way they shift the ball around the park and it shouldn’t be any different for the red and blues on Friday night.
The partnership of Carlos Tuimavave and Kurt Gidley performed admirably over the last month, but Roberts and Mullen have played more than 80 games together and that shared understanding is irreplaceable.
Having said that, there is an old adage that halves can only play as well as the forward pack in front of them allow.
The Raiders have one of the biggest packs in the league, but on Friday night Korbin Sims will be looking to back up from his biggest performance in a red and blue jersey.
Against the Broncos he played 74 minutes, made 42 tackles and was named Players’ Player.
“Korbin played really well and led the forward pack for us,” Sandercock says.
“He played some big minutes and hopefully that sets a bit of a benchmark for Korbin.
“If he can play like that every week then he’ll be really inspirational for our team.”
Another young forward that impressed against the Broncos was Joseph Tapine, who showed how classy a player he can be with some clever offloads and runs.
“He’s showing us some really good things but there’s also aspects he needs to work on,” Sandercock explains.
“He’s working really hard on them and all we want to see is little bits of improvement every week.
“He showed that against the Broncos and that was great.”
To round out the trio of impressive youngsters was Danny Levi, who scored a try from dummy-half in only his second NRL appearance.
While he also made several unforced errors, his potential is there for all to see.
“Danny held his own, obviously he’s on a steep learning curve and he’s the first to admit that he’s got areas of his game that he needs to work on,” Sandercock explains.
“But he’s competing hard and showing signs of improvement, which is exactly what we’re after.”
Where it will be won:
The arm wrestle up front.
“Obviously Canberra have a very big forward pack and they’re basically at full strength,” Sandercock added.
“So if we can control that middle third and hold them there, that will go a long way towards making us very competitive.”
“You can’t replace Jeremy Smith in a team. He brings that confidence and is someone that you want,” Kade Snowden said in a press conference on Monday morning.