Canberra Raiders v Newcastle Knights on Saturday at 2:00pm at GIO Stadium Canberra

The Canberra Raiders will attempt to secure their first victory at GIO Stadium Canberra for 2014 when the side takes on the Newcastle Knights this Saturday.

Canberra has had to endure a tough start to the year with just one home match from their first five matches.

The Green Machine has fought bravely in these first five rounds, registering two wins and three narrow losses. The closeness of the three defeats is evidenced by the fact that Canberra’s for-and-against is just minus six.

Nevertheless, whilst Coach Ricky Stuart has been pleased with his side’s efforts so far this year the fact is that the Green Machine is playing to win, not to come close to winning, and a fixture at home will no doubt help their cause.

“It’d be great to have a big crowd out there at GIO Stadium,” Stuart said. “It’s always nice to play at home but unfortunately we didn’t put our best foot forward in our only game at home this season. We’ll look to make up for that this Saturday.

“We’ve had a tough five weeks to start the year with all the road trips we’ve had but I’ve been really pleased with how individuals have played and with the team as a whole.

“Our performances away this year have been quite strong, but we’ll look to deliver an impressive performance at home in front of a big crowd this Saturday. I know the boys are very excited to run out there.”

Assisting in their cause is the return of Australian second-rower Josh Papalii along with Jarrad Kennedy, Shannon Boyd and Bill Tupou.

CLICK HERE to see the full team line-up.

“Having Josh back in the side is a big boost for us,” Stuart said. “When you’ve got a player of his quality sitting on the sidelines it always makes it a lot harder for the side so having him back is very nice.

“It was unfortunate that those other players missed last week through illness and injury and whilst the other boys did a good job filling in, it’s good to have those three players back. Hopefully now we can get back to where we were.”

Whilst Canberra’s forward pack will be buoyed with the return of Papalii, Kennedy and Boyd, they will be without the services of renowned hit-man Joel Edwards.

Edwards has been rested by Stuart this week after consecutive head knocks.

“Joel’s not going to play this week and that’s purely due to our concern for the welfare of Joel,” Stuart said. “He had another nasty head knock against Penrith and giving him a week off now is far better than the risk of having him miss more time if it had happened again. We didn’t want to put him at any type of risk.”

Despite it only being April, these two adversaries have already met twice times this year if you include the trial in Tamworth.

Whilst the trial is hard to gauge a reading on given that both coaches were experimenting with different players and combinations, the Raiders will definitely take a lot of confidence out of their Round 2 encounter in which they defeated the Knights 26-20 at Hunter Stadium.

Key Matchups:

Anthony Milford v Darius Boyd

When these two sides met in Round 2 earlier this year it was Milford who proved the difference, engineering two late tries to steal the win from Newcastle’s grasps.

As such, Milford will be a heavily marked man on Saturday afternoon.

Whilst Milford was pivotal in their last encounter, Darius Boyd was a heavily felt omission from Newcastle’s line-up.

Boyd is a vital cog in Newcastle’s attacking structure with the Queensland and Australian representative acting as a second five-eighth with ball in hand as well as being a highly dangerous ball runner when he chimes into the backline.

He will no doubt boost the Knights’ potency in attack, something the Raiders need to be wary of.

Brett White v Willie Mason

White and Mason have won premierships and represented the game at the highest levels however there is one goal that the pair wish to achieve before they retire – a premiership with their junior club.

The passion and leadership with which White and Mason play with has a highly influential role on the rest of the team.

When either White or Mason speaks, their team mates listen extra carefully.

It is their inspirational actions which speak most profoundly though.

Whoever can gain the upper hand when White and Mason clash will go a long way to determining which forward pack can lay the more effective platform for their side's talented halves.

Josh McCrone v Kurt Gidley

Whilst Gidley is vastly more experienced in the high octane, high impact style of play he employs from dummy half, McCrone is relatively new to the role.

Not that you would have noticed though given the quality of McCrone’s performances so far this year. He and Glen Buttriss have complimented each other well with the Country Origin representative having a profound impact when he enters the field mid-way through the first half.

This was portrayed clearly in the Raiders last encounter against the Knights when McCrone scored a slashing individual try from dummy half in the 24th minute.

Raiders fans can expect a similarly impressive performance from McCrone this Saturday as he will look to celebrate his 26th birthday in style with a win in front of the many family and friends he has coming along to GIO Stadium Canberra.

Stat Attack:

Record against the Knights:

In a total of 41 games against the Knights, Canberra has won 23 games, drew one and lost 17.

Knights record at GIO Stadium Canberra:

In a total of 20 games at GIO Stadium Canberra, the Knights have won just four matches, drawn once and lost on 15 occasions.

Last three encounters:

1.      Canberra defeated Newcastle 26-20 at Hunter Stadium in Round 2 2014

2.      Canberra defeated Newcastle 44-14 at GIO Stadium Canberra in Round 9 2013

3.      Newcastle defeated Canberra 28-12 at Hunter Stadium in Round 4 2013

They said it:

Reece Robinson: “I haven’t minded playing on the wing but I’m definitely looking to get myself more involved. I’m going to go looking for opportunities around our forwards and halves in general play a bit more.”

http://www.raiders.com.au/news/2014/04/09/robinson_looking_to_get_more_involved.html

Dane Tilse: “Our last home game was very disappointing. We didn’t play how we’d been training or carry over our previous form but we’ll look to make up for that this Saturday in front of a  big crowd at GIO Stadium Canberra.”

http://www.raiders.com.au/news/2014/04/08/weekly_media_dane_tilse.html

Paul Vaughan: “The spine of our side is improving with each game and I think that the more often that Milford, Wighton and Campo play with each other, the greater force they will be.”

http://www.raiders.com.au/news/2014/04/07/play_of_the_week_paul_vaughan.html

Matt Allwood: “It’s been a tough challenge for me lining up against BJ Leulia the last two times we’ve played the Knights. He’s a very good player who is difficult to contain but it’s good to challenge myself against those sorts of players.”