NRL match preview: Round 25
After three great wins the nib Newcastle Knights came back down to earth last weekend against a dominant Melbourne Storm.
In the penultimate round of the 2017 season the team travels down to Canberra with the aim of returning to winning ways.
CANBERRA RAIDERS v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Date: Friday August 23
Gates open: 3.30pm
Venue: GIO Stadium
1. Nathan Ross, 2. Ken Sio, 3. Dane Gagai, 4. Peter Mata’utia, 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6. Jack Cogger, 7. Trent Hodkinson, 8. Daniel Saifiti, 9. Danny Levi, 10. Josh King, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Jamie Buhrer, 13. Mitch Barnett. Interchange: 14. Joe Wardle, 15. Mickey Paea, 16. Sam Stone, 17. Jacob Saifiti, 18. Brendan Elliot, 19. Pat Mata’utia, 20. Jaelen Feeney, 21. Jack Stockwell.
1. Jack Wighton, 2. Nick Cotric, 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. Joe Tapine, 13. Elliot Whitehead, 14. Kurt Baptiste, 15. Clay Priest, 16. Dave Taylor, 17. Luke Bateman, 18. Jeff Lima, 19. Erin Clark, 20. Royce Hunt, 21. Michael Oldfield.
In recent times there’s been some top-drawer contests between these two sides with plenty of attacking football on show.
In Round 3 of last season the spoils were shared in a thrilling 24-all draw, and then in Round 17 of the same season the Knights were desperately unlucky to lose 29-25 in extra time.
In 2017 the dominance has shifted towards the Knights, as the red and blues won a pre-season trial 44-0 and then beat the Green Machine 34-20 at home in Round 10.
The Raiders are currently in a desperate hunt to make the finals, and will provide a stern test at home.
“Last year we drew with them and they beat us right on the buzzer in golden point and this year we got them so we know they are going to be out for revenge,” Danny Levi said on Tuesday.
“We’re out there to finish the season well now.
While last weekend the Knights lost Brock Lamb and Luke Yates for the rest of the season, the team this week receives a timely boost with the early return of Nathan Ross.
The mercurial fullback was considered a chance of returning in Round 26 or even missing the rest of the season after he suffered a back injury in Round 22.
Ross has worked around the clock to return to fitness early, and while he is still experiencing some pain from his injury, medical staff have determined that no further damage can be done.
“Rossy certainly enjoys playing and he certainly gives his all every week,” coach Nathan Brown said of the 28-year-old.
“He is a late starter and likes to play as many games as he can… but it’s a credit to him for wanting to come back.”
Ross’ return sees Dane Gagai shift back to the centres and Joe Wardle to the bench.
Visiting Canberra is always a frosty trip in winter, and this Friday it’s forecast to be eight degrees at kick off.
By the end of the game it is predicted to be just four degrees, so a big challenge for the team’s interchange forwards will be to simply stay warm while they aren’t on the field.
Former Raider Mitch Barnett has been averaging approximately 50 minutes a game in the last month, and will be spending some time on the sidelines.
“It’s so hard to warm up down there,” Barnett explained.
“It’s a lot colder than up here, and hopefully it isn’t windy.”
THE FINAL SAY
“He’s probably had a good five or six weeks back in Reserve Grade and if he didn’t have the injury at the start of the year, he would have already played a few games,” coach Nathan Brown said of Jack Cogger, who will replace the injured Brock Lamb this week.
“He played some games last year and made a good account of himself so we’re quite confident Jack will do a good job.”