Second Row Contenders
While Josh Papalii and Joel Edwards are likely to form the starting second row partnership after their superb seasons in 2013, there are several other talented contenders vying for positions on the interchange bench.
Papalii emerged as the Raiders’ premier second rower in 2013 after another brilliant year for the Green Machine which saw him break into the successful Queensland State of Origin side and bring the World Cup trophy back to Australia.
The 21 year olds potent mix of explosive charges, sharp footwork and ferocious hits in defence makes him such an intimidating proposition for opponents and such an eye catching performer for his own side.
After such a brilliant year in 2013 there will be plenty of pressure for Papalii to deliver again this season however his impressive maturity, temperament and hunger holds him in good stead to exceed such expectations.
Papalii’s ability to play long minutes enables Ricky Stuart to have a multitude of interchange options given he has the assurance that the right hand second row position would be taken care of.
Having re-signed with Canberra until the end of 2016, the Souths Logan junior will look to lead the side back into the semi-final fold in 2014.
After arriving to the club from the Newcastle Knights, Edwards made a home in the Nation’s Capital with Raiders fans welcoming the affable back-rower with open arms after his consistently courageous performances in 2013.
Edwards impressed the coaching staff and his new team mates with not only his damaging defence and gutsy hit ups on the field, but with his attitude, team work and work ethic off it.
The introduction of Edwards to the Raiders pack bolstered the side’s defence significantly and added a renowned ‘hit man’ to Canberra’s defensive structure, with Edwards averaging 24.7 tackles per match.
The calibre of his efforts over his 23 appearances saw Edwards receive the Coach’s Award at the Meninga Medal. For this reason, Edwards is in a strong position to partner Papalii as the side’s other starting second rower.
Foster was a new recruit to the Raiders in 2013 and whilst he performed admirably for the Green Machine when selected in the NRL line-up, he will look to improve significantly on his debut year for the club in 2014.
Following the departures of Joel Thompson and Joe Picker, Foster has a prime opportunity to become a more regular member of the first grade line-up this season.
The 25 year old has proven that he can match it with the game’s elite players, which was evidenced when he was selected for the Indigenous All Stars last year.
Foster matched the NRL All Stars blow for blow and he will draw on the confidence derived from that fixture as he looks to take his game to a new level in 2014.
Whilst he is still developing as a footballer, up and coming back-rower Jarrad Kennedy proved that he will be a very handy first grader in the future in the limited time he had in the NRL in 2013.
Kennedy is an 80 minute forward who gets through a mountain of work in both attack and defence. He also possesses plenty of skill with the football through his passing and offloading ability.
The 23 year old is renowned for being one of the fittest forwards at the club and again led the way in pre-season training in 2014.
Kennedy’s outstanding fitness levels and hunger to succeed places him firmly in the mix to fill the void left by his 2008 NYC Premiership winning team mate Joel Thompson and Joe Picker.
The trials will be a big opportunity for Kennedy to impress the coaching staff as he looks to take the next step in his promising career.
O’Donnell joins the Raiders after a season with the Penrith Panthers in 2013 and was previously with the Newcastle Knights where he made his NRL debut in 2012.
The brother of former NSW Origin star Luke O’Donnell, Kyle is a talented young forward in his own right and will add tremendous depth to the club’s forward ranks.
The 23 year old is looking to learn all he can from Assistant Coach and former international forward Dean Pay as well as the club’s forward leaders such as David Shillington, Brett White and Shaun Fensom.
O’Donnell, a former Junior Kangaroos star, has battled injury early in his career and if he is able to remain injury free will be well in contention for a first grade spot at some stage in 2014.