The Canberra Raiders NYC team returns to GIO Stadium Canberra this Sunday to take on the Penrith Panthers, with a host of fresh faces making their NYC debuts.
Coach Mick Mantelli had warned the squad that a lack of performance would see players lose their spot, Mantelli admitted that the 54-0 loss on Saturday was the tipping point in naming the SG ball players.
“It’s the first time I’ve had access to them, if we played better I wouldn’t have put so many in, but the performance was poor, I need something new, something with a bit of energy and excitement.”
Of the changes Jake Wheeler, Trent Schubach and Kilu Pangai have all been dropped from last weekend’s team. Andrew Heffernan will miss with a knee injury, while Jack Creith returns from an ankle injury.
Brett Solomon and Jamal Nchouki have been upgraded into starting roles this week, while Dylan McGrath gets a chance at hooker.
Tevita Pangai Junior and Jared McIlwrick are relegated to the bench, while six SG Ball players have been named in the extended squad.
Brenko Lee and Luke Bateman will be playing for Souths Logan in the Queensland Cup this week, so will miss this match as well.
Click here to see the full squad for this week’s game.
Of the SG Ball players to make this week’s squad three players will start in the run on side. Electrifying winger Thomas Cronan will partner Cleveland McGhie as a new wing and centre combination. Cronan is an exciting prospect from Cooma who consistently won his school’s age champion title for sprinting.
While McGhie is a powerful centre who tips the scales at 100kg, he originally hails from Wollongong and will be more than a fitting replacement for Brenko Lee.
Lachlan Lewis a relative of the great Wally Lewis will move to five-eighth to partner Matthew Frawley who will play half back this week. Lewis has already represented Queensland at u16’s level, and is a smart playmaker highlighted by his 97.00 ATAR score during college.
Captain of the SG ball side Lachlan Croker has been named on the extended bench, Croker is an outstanding five-eighth who can break a game open.
Joining him are rampaging centre Jack Williams and second rower Ben Maguire.
Frawley will also captain the side this week, when asked of the captaincy change Mantelli said the young halve was a steadying influence on those around him.
With a host of senior players out in this one, Mantelli was asked whether he would look to the senior guys in the team to lead the younger ones around.
“Matt’s a steady head and that’s why he’s got the captaincy, to be honest I expect everyone to pull their own weight this week, Luke’s a major loss this week, but if we pull together I’m sure there will be no dramas.”
The last time these two sides met the Panthers capitalised on some costly errors from the Raiders to run out 42-12 winners in Penrith.
That sparked a run of four consecutive wins for Penrith which was halted last week by table topping Newcastle.
Mantelli said the side was keen to overturn the result from the last time these two sides met.
“We’re back here on our home ground, the boys get to sleep in their own beds and don’t have to travel. Everything is in place to produce a peak performance.”
The match against the Panthers looms as an enticing encounter, the game against Penrith kicks off at 11:45 am at Gio Stadium on Sunday.