CANBERRA RAIDERS V NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
SATURDAY MARCH 8, 5.45PM (QLD TIME), 1300 SMILES STADIUM
Raiders NYC Coach Mick Mantelli is expecting the quartet of players that spent the pre-season training with the NRL squad to lead the way forward for his new-look side in their Round 1 clash with the North Queensland Cowboys.
Andrew Heffernan, Brenko Lee and Co-Captains Luke Bateman and Patrick Mago all spent a portion of the pre-season training with the NRL squad and Mantelli believes that each player has developed remarkably in regards to their professionalism and leadership capabilities as a result.
With a lot of fresh faces in the line-up, it is imperative that the quartet lead the way forward and set an example for their younger team mates to ensure that the Green Machine continues their consistently high standard in the NYC.
“Training with the NRL squad has done those players a world of good and they have come back to be leaders of this side,” Mantelli said. “We will definitely look for them to lead the way but we’re also looking for the younger members of the team to step up and take the place of the departed players from last year.”
Given the departure of personnel from last year there has been a reshuffle in several of the key playmaking positions from last year.
Whilst Trent Schubach remains at hooker, Heffernan takes over the reins from Mitch Cornish at halfback, where he will be partnered with the composed Matt Frawley.
Rounding out the spine of the side will be the talented Ricky Garard at fullback, who gets an opportunity to showcase his renowned fitness levels and instinctive attacking ability.
“Not really” was how Mantelli responded when asked if he will be employing the same tactical structure as last year. “We will still look to play an attacking brand of football but it will be a different style to what we played last year.
“We were blessed the last few years having Cornish at seven but Heffernan has grown up playing in the halves and he has been very good at training and in the trials. He’s a very confident kid and he and Frawley will work well together – they have a good rapport.
“Ricky likes take the line on so he will bring a running game to fullback. He’s as strong as an ox and we all know how fit he is (Garard has ranked highly in several cross-fit competitions).It was a late decision to put him there but he will be an X factor player for us this year.”
Another player that Mantelli is happy to have in his side is centre Brenko Lee. The 18 year old was looking likely to be selected to make his NRL debut for Round 1 such was the impression he left on Ricky Stuart over the pre-season.
Lee was clearly disappointed not to debut but rather than kick stones and come back to the NYC with a poor attitude, he has led by example.
“Having him in the side is a tremendous boost for us,” Mantelli enthused. “is talk is a 1000 times better than what it was last year and he’s brought a leadership role back to the NYC.
“He was in line to make his NRL debut but he hasn’t carried on like a brat after he has been dropped. People are going to notice how you respond to a setback and they’re going to say if you’ve handled it well or not but so far he’s handled it very well and he’s set for a big game.”
The full team line-up is:
1. Ricky Garard
2. Leu Saipani
3. Brenko Lee
4. Jack Creith
5. Lachlan Hurst
6. Matt Frawley
7. Andrew Heffernan
8. Mitchell Shaw
9. Trent Schubach
10. Mitchell Barnett
11. Patrick Mago ©
12. Jared McIlwrick
13. Luke Bateman ©
14. Josh Baker
15. Jules Webley
16. Brett Solomon
17. Thoren Fidow-Kele
18. Dylan McGrath
Coach: Mick Mantelli