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Canberra Raiders v North Queensland Cowboys on Saturday at 8:00pm at 1300SMILES Stadium

Well it’s the game that Canberra fans have been waiting 181 days for since the last time their beloved Raiders graced the field but for two talented 21 year olds, it’s a game that they’ve been waiting their whole lives for.

On Saturday night at 1300SMILES Stadium, dynamic centre Matt Allwood and man-mountain Shannon Boyd will make their NRL debuts for the Raiders.

Allwood will start at right centre whilst Boyd will enter the fray off the interchange bench.

It will be a tough initiation for the duo with Allwood coming up against the capable Kane Linnett and Boyd who will test his unquestioned potential against the Australian front-row pairing of Matt Scott and James Tamou.

Raiders Coach Ricky Stuart has no qualms whatsoever picking the budding stars in his line-up with Stuart revealing that Allwood and Boyd “picked themselves” after their impressive pre-seasons and superb trial form.

“They certainly deserve their spot in the team after the great pre-seasons they’ve had along with their performances in the trials,” Stuart said. “They’ve had a good upbringing in regards to their development and now they get their opportunity in first grade as a result of their hard work.

“They may be inexperienced, but everyone’s got to start somewhere. I’m sure both boys will get plenty of hard games this season. They’ve both put in a lot of hard work over the off-season and they both thoroughly deserve their spot.

“It will be a tough challenge for some of our younger guys going up to North Queensland to play against some of the world’s best players, it will be interesting to see how they handle that. It’s an exciting time in their lives making their NRL debuts and I’m sure they will make the most of it.”

Whilst there will be plenty of eyes on the two debutants, a determining factor in the outcome of the match will surround the match-up between the Raiders new-look halves combination of Jack Wighton and Terry Campese and the Cowboys combination of Jonathon Thurston and Robert Lui.

“It’s a big test for Jack coming up against JT but five-eighth is not new to him and he’s trained there all off-season too so it’s been an easy transition for him,” Stuart said. “Having played there in the junior grades it has made it easier for him to find his feet.

“We wanted to start the season on the best foot possible and that’s why I picked my best halves combination. I’m excited to watch Jack perform closer to the action.”

For Wighton and Campese to gain the upper hand over Thurston and Lui, the Raiders forwards, particularly their front-rowers need to assert their dominance over Scott and Tamou.

Key Matchups:

Jack Wighton v Jonathon Thurston

After playing all of his 27 NRL games at either centre or wing, Wighton gets the opportunity to showcase his playmaking ability in the position that he grew up playing, five-eighth.

Many are predicting a long and fruitful future for Wighton in the number six jersey with the talented youngster already drawing comparisons to a young Laurie Daley.

Whilst he is a long way off achieving Daley’s accomplishments, Wighton will have no better player to measure himself after 80 minutes than against than Thurston, who was awarded the Golden Boot last year for his standing as the best player in the world.

As a combination, Wighton will provide Campese with a magnificent foil due to his terrific running game and brutal defence, however the Cowboys should discount the Country Origin representative’s passing and kicking game at their peril.

James Tamou/ Matt Scott v Dane Tilse/ Brett White

As mentioned previously, for Campese and Wighton to gain the upper hand over Thurston and Lui it is imperative that the likes of Dane Tilse and Brett White match their opposing front-rowers Tamou and Scott.

Tamou and Scott are among the best in the business at yardage and asserting their dominance in the middle of the field.

With Shillington and Learoyd-Lahrs unavailable, Tilse and White need to stand up and lead the way forward for their talented but inexperienced front-row team mates like Boyd and Paul Vaughan.  

Josh Papalii v Jason Taumololo

They came in like a wrecking ball…

No, the match-up between Papalii and Taumololo is not reminiscent of a Miley Cyrus song but more like Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.

Papalii and Taumololo are strikingly similar. Both exhibit granite like frames which are capable of busting through any defensive line with tremendous leg power and sharp footwork, whilst their defensive prowess strikes fear into the opposition.

The sight of Papalii and Taumololo going head to head is one that will be lapped up by the grateful spectators and watched with apprehension by each club’s respective medical personnel.

Stat Attack:

Last 3 results:

- Canberra defeated North Queensland 26-18  at 1300SMILES Stadium in Round 17 2013

- North Queensland defeated Canberra 30-12 at GIO Stadium in Round 7 2013

- North Queensland defeated Canberra 40-18 at 1300SMILES Stadium in Round 16 2012

Record against the Cowboys:

In a total of 32 games against the Cowboys, Canberra has won 19 games and lost 13.

Raiders record at 1300SMILES Stadium:

In a total of 16 games at 1300SMILES Stadium, the Raiders have won 7 games.

They said it:

Ricky Stuart: “I’m very happy with the team I’ve selected but it was a hard process. There are a number of players that you feel sorry for in not making this team for Round 1. A few of those boys can consider themselves unlucky but they will get their shot at some stage if they keep on working hard.”

CLICK HERE to hear more from Stuart.  

Jarrod Croker: “I hope Edrick and I can pick up from where we left off last year and we’ve done a lot of training together.  Eddie unfortunately hurt his arm last year when we were enjoying some good form but he’s bounced back and he’s looking really fit and has put a bit of size on. I can’t wait to play with him again.”

CLICK HERE to hear more from Croker. 

Josh McCrone: “It doesn’t matter to me whether I start or come off the bench because I’ll be playing the same amount of minutes either way. I’m looking forward to the new role. It’s an exciting new look for the side, fans will just have to get used to a bald bloke wearing the number seven jumper from now on.”

CLICK HERE to hear more from McCrone. 

Matt Allwood: “Ricky looks at players on how they’re performing not so much on who they are. It will be a big test for myself coming up against some big names at the Cowboys but I can’t wait to get out there and make my debut.”

CLICK HERE to hear more from Allwood. 

Acknowledgement of Country

Canberra Raiders respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.