NRL Preview: Round 17
CANBERRA RAIDERS v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Date: Sunday July 3
Gates open: 11.30am
Venue: GIO Stadium
Broadcast: Fox Sports
1. Dane Gagai, 2. Nathan Ross, 3. Sione Mata’utia, 4. Peter Mata’utia, 5. Brendan Elliot, 6. Jack Cogger, 7. Trent Hodkinson, 8. Sam Mataora, 9. Danny Levi, 10. Korbin Sims, 11. Jacob Saifiti, 12. Mitch Barnett, 13. Jeremy Smith. Interchange: 14. Tyler Randell, 15. Robbie Rochow, 16. Daniel Saifiti, 17. Mickey Paea, 22. Josh King.
1. Jack Wighton, 2. Brenko Lee, 3. Jarrod Croker, 4. Joey Leilua, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Blake Austin, 7. Aidan Sezer, 8. Junior Paulo, 9. Josh Hodgson, 10. Shannon Boyd, 11. Josh Papalii, 12. Elliot Whitehead, 13. Luke Bateman. Interchange: 14. Kurt Baptiste, 15. Sia Soliola, 16. Paul Vaughan, 17. Joe Tapine.
Unchanged 17 in Round 17
For the first time this season, Nathan Brown has named an unchanged first 17.
Injuries, suspensions and form have seen the red and blues run out with some different faces every week in 2016, and this newly found consistency in Round 17 will surely benefit the team.
The likes of the Cronulla Sharks have only used 19 different players so far this season compared to the Knights’ whopping 32.
While the Knights have a long way to go in that regard, an unchanged 17 will definitely help this weekend.
Barnett up against old club
Mitch Barnett will only be playing his fifth NRL game when he comes up against his old club in the Canberra Raiders.
While he had a tough first half last weekend, in the second period he scored a try and came up with some great carries.
"It is a big learning curve for all of us young guys... the more we all play together the better we will get," Barnett said in the sheds following the game.
Barnett spent three years playing down in the country’s capital, and will no doubt be motivated in coming up against old teammates and mentors in Josh Papalii and Sia Soliola.
Rochow returns strongly
Robbie Rochow made his return from a long-term injury in Round 16 and performed strongly when he came off the bench with 131 metres and 23 tackles in 56 minutes.
He has again been named to come off the bench, and will provide great impact with his offloads and carries against an intimidating Raiders pack.
“It’s never easy, Canberra in Canberra,” Rochow said earlier in the week.
“Our ruck defence is going to be even more important, so we will have to fix that up.”
Raiders monster pack
The Raiders have one of the biggest forward packs in the NRL, and Brown’s young charges will be heading to the capital with a big challenge on their hands.
“You need to tackle them well, that’s for sure,” the head coach said in his press conference on Tuesday.
“They have a lot of big boys and have caused a lot of teams a lot of trouble.”
The Knights have plenty of size as well with the Saifiti twins, Korbin Sims and Sam Mataora, but Brown believes that on the day it will come down to technique and mentality.
"The key for us, as it is every week, is our tackle technique and trying to get some consistency in it."
THE FINAL SAY
"With so many younger kids trying to learn their trades at once...it's about trying to get that consistency," Brown said on Tuesday.
"All we can do is to keep going through the processes and a lot of it is based around our ruck and a little bit of edge stuff."