Canberra Raiders v New Zealand Warriors on Saturday at 5:00pm (local time) at Eden Park
The Raiders have the perfect opportunity to atone for their disappointing loss to the Manly Sea Eagles in Round 8 and remind the NRL public of the side’s true character when they face the Warriors this Saturday at Eden Park.
After a promising and spirited opening to the year, the Raiders delivered a totally uncharacteristic performance against the Sea Eagles to succumb to a 54-18 loss.
“Our character was tested and it didn't stand up against Manly,” said Josh McCrone candidly. “It was pretty embarrassing that score-line and the worse thing is that we were unable to make amends the following weekend due to the rep round.
“This Saturday is a chance to rebuild our character and to show that all that hard work we did try to build our character over the pre-season isn't gone in one week.
“It's a big opportunity here to show people that we're still a tough team, and that mentally we're not weak like we were against Manly.”
McCrone, alongside Paul Vaughan and Jack Wighton all performed admirably for Country last Sunday and will look to take the confidence derived from this back to the Raiders.
“Representing City of Country definitely boosts your confidence,” said McCrone. “For the boys that did play, that’s something that we will have to bring back to the Raiders. After the loss to Manly we all need an injection of confidence.”
Vaughan was particularly impressive for Country and as such has been called into the starting side along with Dane Tilse.
The pair’s promotion comes at the expense of Josh Papalii and David Shillington, who will look to rediscover the form and match-fitness that led them to be classed as renowned representative players.
“They’re just a couple of minor changes to be honest,” Assistant Coach Matt Parish said. “Papa needs to get his match fitness up. To his credit, he went up to Queensland to play for Souths Logan to gain match fitness on his weekend off but he’s just not up to the level where we need him to be at the moment.
“Josh is an impact player though and he will still provide that for us, he’s a tremendous asset for our team. For Vaughan and Tilse, it’s a reward for their form and what they provide the side.”
With Shannon Boyd sidelined with a sternum injury for the week, Kyle O’Donnell gets his opportunity to impress Ricky Stuart with selection on the interchange bench.
The 13th placed Warriors will prove a dangerous opponent for the Raiders who are just one spot below them on the ladder. The Warriors clinically defeated the Storm in Round 8 with Shaun Johnson and Sam Tomkins looking particularly sharp on the back of a hard-running forward pack.
Anthony Milford v Sam Tomkins
Along with his partner in crime Johnson, Tomkins is the driving creative force for the Warriors. The English Test fullback is blessed with sublime running, passing and kicking skills which enable him to capitalise on his tremendous rugby league instincts.
The same can be said for the Samoan Test fullback, Anthony Milford.
Both players are popular crowd pleasers partly due to their diminutive stature and jaw-dropping feats on the field.
Whilst the extent of the opposing fullback’s magic will be determined by the dominance of their respective forward packs, the battle between Milford and Tomkins will certainly be an entertaining one.
Paul Vaughan v Simon Mannering
After gaining a promotion over Australian World Cup forward Josh Papalii, Vaughan will be out to deliver a big performance against the Warriors.
Vaughan is currently in a purple patch of form; highlighted by his match-winning try against the Storm and selection for Country.
He will directly oppose New Zealand Captain Simon Mannering on the right edge on Saturday. Mannering is the consummate professional and will be determined to lead his side to victory after the disappointment of going down in last week’s test match.
Josh Papalii v Feleti Mateo
Conversely, Papalii will be out to prove a point in this encounter.
Dumped from the Australian Test line-up and relegated to the interchange bench, Papalii will look to make as much impact as possible when he enters the fray.
Knowing he was down on match fitness following his injury, Papalii went to the impressive length of playing for Souths Logan Magpies in his week off to re-gain his lost fitness levels and will be attempting to thoroughly increase his involvement.
Mateo, one of the most skilful players in the competition on his day, will also be looking to add as much impact as possible when he comes onto the field after an inconsistent start to the year.
Record against the Warriors:
In a total of 30 games against New Zealand, Canberra has won 17 games and lost 13.
Record at Eden Park:
This will be the first time the Raiders have played the Warriors at Eden Park.
Last three encounters:
1. New Zealand defeated Canberra 50-16 at Mt Smart Stadium in Round 25 2013
2. Canberra defeated New Zealand 20-16 at GIO Stadium Canberra in Round 6 2013
3. Canberra defeated New Zealand 42-22 at Mt Smart Stadium in Round 26 2012
They said it:
Paul Vaughan: “I can take a lot of experience out of representing Country. I learnt a lot of things that I think will make me a better player and I’ll be looking to implement that this weekend against the Warriors.”
Josh McCrone: “Representing City of Country definitely boosts your confidence. For the boys that did play, that’s something that we will have to bring back to the Raiders. After the loss to Manly we all need an injection of confidence.”
Joel Edwards: “Everyone’s still hurting from the Manly game so we will use that as extra motivation for this week. Everyone needs to lift that little bit more to make sure that that sort of performance doesn’t happen again.”
Matt Parish: “The loss to Manly was disappointing but you can’t dwell on things like that; you need to learn your lessons and move on. I’m expecting a much improved performance this week against a dangerous Warriors side.”