Canberra Raiders v Melbourne Storm on Sunday at 3:00pm at GIO Stadium Canberra
Forget Easter eggs, Easter bunnies or even hot cross buns, securing the two competition points is all that is concerning the Canberra Raiders when they take on the Melbourne Storm at GIO Stadium Canberra this Sunday.
Despite mixed results, the Raiders have been competitive in every game this year. Although they have been pleased with their effort and commitment, the Green Machine is determined to transform competitiveness into victories, particularly at home.
“Last week we were disappointed with the result and particularly disappointed in our second half performance in front of our home fans,” Assistant Coach Matt Parish said. “We’re proud of our effort, attitude and commitment and whilst we’re not far away from where we want to be, we want to get there as quickly as possible.”
The Raiders face a stern test this week in the form of the Melbourne Storm.
Unfortunately, Melbourne has enjoyed a terrific record at GIO Stadium Canberra of late having won their last four encounters there dating back to 2010.
Central to the Storm’s success for a while now has been their star trio of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater.
“They’re very lucky to have those three players in their side,” Parish said. “If Smith isn’t the best player in the world then he’s certainly the best hooker in the world. Cronk has probably been the Storm’s best player this year and is leading the competition in try assists and Billy Slater is just Billy Slater; probably one of the best fullbacks the NRL has ever seen.
“Any team that has those players in the team is going to be hard to beat.”
As such, plenty of homework has been done by the Raiders to nullify the dynamic trio.
“Their play is very instinctive particularly around the ruck. We’ve done a lot of work on their combination and have worked hard at training on it so hopefully they will be well contained on Sunday.”
A key component in restricting Slater’s involvement centres around Canberra’s kick-chase.
The Raiders lead the NRL in kick metres with 4228 metres and Parish has been very impressed with the side’s chase on these quality kicks.
“Our kick-chase has been really good this year. Jack and Campo have been kicking well all year and the boys have been very enthusiastic in getting down and putting pressure on. We’ll need that again this week to contain Slater.”
In team changes, the Raiders will be boosted by the return of renowned hit-man Joel Edwards who will look to put in a big performance after re-signing with the club until the end of 2017. Edwards comes into the team for Jarrad Kennedy who has been relegated to 18th man duties.
Anthony Milford v Billy Slater
Due to his stellar start to the 2014 season, Milford’s name has been tossed into the ring as a possible bolter for the Queensland State of Origin squad.
A passionate Queenslander, playing for the Maroons is obviously one of his dreams and the lively fullback will have no better team to push his case forward than the Storm whose line-up includes Origin Captain Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Will Chambers and Milford’s opposite for this encounter Billy Slater.
It goes without saying the danger that Slater poses for the Raiders. He has portrayed how great a player he is at club, state and international level for a number of years. His combination with Cronk and Smith is meticulous and close to instinctive and this has been a huge focus in Canberra’s homework this week.
Terry Campese v Cooper Cronk
Campese and Cronk are the most dominant play makers for their respective sides. Their kicking and passing games are the centrepiece of the Raiders’ and Storm’s attacking structure.
The pair poses threats individually, but their greatest strength is that they are able to unlock the talents of their team mates as well as gaining favourable field position with their giant and accurate kicking games.
Whilst Cronk’s combination with Smith and Slater has been successful at all levels of the game for a number of years, the Raiders spine of Buttriss, Campese, Wighton and Milford is still in its early stages of development.
Their combination is still developing however the glimpses they have showed so far this season alludes to exciting things to come. Campese is the most experienced member of Canberra’s spine and as such a big performance will be expected of him against the Storm.
Josh McCrone v Ryan Hinchcliffe
Despite playing in different positions, the match-up between McCrone and Hinchcliffe will be particularly fierce considering that the Storm lock is McCrone’s brother-in-law.
With family bragging rights on the line and the fact the pair are as competitive as they come, the duo will be doing their absolute all to trump one another.
As always when the two Temora exports clash, there will be a vast amount of family and friends in the stands at GIO Stadium Canberra, an element which always heightens the competitiveness and banter between McCrone and Hinchcliffe.
McCrone will have an added incentive to get the wood over Hinchcliffe this week after the Storm ruined his 100th NRL match celebrations with a 68-4 drubbing last year.
Record against the Storm:
In a total of 33 games against Melbourne, Canberra has won 9 games and lost 24.
Storm’s record at GIO Stadium Canberra:
In a total of 16 games at GIO Stadium Canberra, the Storm have won 11 matches and lost on just 5 occasions.
Last three encounters:
1. Melbourne defeated Canberra 68-4 at GIO Stadium Canberra in Round 21 2013
2. Canberra defeated Melbourne 24-20 at AAMI Park in Round 8 2013
3. Canberra defeated Melbourne 40-12 at AAMI Park in Round 18 2012
They said it:
Brett White: “Every game has been the same this year; we’ve been right in the fight until the very end and that’s something that we’re very positive about. We’re proud of our effort and commitment and we know that we’re not far off being one of the better teams in the competition.”
Josh McCrone: “I’ve got some added motivation to beat the Storm this year after they set a record for the biggest loss the Raiders have ever had in my 100th game last year.”
Glen Buttriss: “I always look forward to playing against players like Cameron Smith. He’s the best hooker in the game and it will be good for me to test myself against him and hopefully we can get the two points.
Shannon Boyd: “It was great to get the first try of my career last week. It was a great feeling and hopefully there will be a few more to come this year.”