Despite winning their last two games, Raiders’ NYC coach Mick Mantelli believes that his side still has a lot of improvement in them.
This week the Raiders will face the defending premiers Penrith away from home, Canberra doesn’t have the best record in Penrith, and Mantelli warned that despite not winning a game all season Penrith would be up for the challenge.
“They’ve got a decent team and still have their forward pack from last year, and it’s not a good hunting ground for us at Penrith.”
Mantelli re-iterated that it was more about focussing on what the team needs to do to improve their performance, rather than worrying about their opponents.
“We’re just concentrating on our game at the moment and not looking at what Penrith are going to do, we just need to get the things we are working on right, and hopefully we’ll come away with a good win.”
In all four games played so far this year the Canberra side hasn’t finished in front at half time, Mantelli said the side was focussed on getting a better start in their games.
With one of the main focus areas being on their defence, Mantelli expressed his disappointment over what he considered ‘soft tries’ that were scored on the weekend.
“We made a few errors, the most pressing thing for me is we let in soft tries again, currently it’s a lazy trait that we have at the moment, if the boys work harder on the line they wouldn’t be conceding these tries.”
It’s this brutal honesty that will see continual improvement in the side each week, and proves that a win won’t be enough to satisfy the coach, if the basics of the game aren’t completed properly.
Mantelli reserved praise for big forward Tevita Pangai Junior who was a wrecking ball against the Rabbitohs last week.
“Tevita Pangai probably had his best game for us last week, he is still a little bit off his best at the moment, but I thought he had a really good game.”
Jack Creith and Andrew Heffernan were the other two players that Mantelli highlighted, Creith in particular will be homing to continue his form from last week. After highlighting his high skill set last week with a look away pass to find Brenko Lee unmarked on the wing.
Heffernan also continued to make strides in his new role as half back, the young Canberra half looks like he has finally settled into the role, and has been one of the Raiders’ best players all year.
There has been just one change made to the starting line up with Trae Clarke coming onto the wing to replace Rourke O’Sullivan. When asked about the change Mantelli said it was all about the wingers taking their opportunity when it is presented to them.
“I think the wingers we have played have had an opportunity, but they simply haven’t taken them. Trae is another winger on our list who is getting his opportunity this week, and I’ve told him like I’ve told every other winger on the list, they need to take their opportunities.”
Trae Clarke will be looking to make the most of his opportunities given to him this week, the NSW Country and AIS Under 18s is a quick outside back who possesses great toughness. He showed good signs in his limited opportunities last year, before injury unfortunately struck him down, so he will be keen to hold his position in the side.
The NYC side has once again shown their great depth with an extended bench being named, amongst the inclusions on the bench are Brett Solomon, Dylan McGrath and Jules Webley.