TTM Canberra Raiders Cup: Round 4 Preview

Queanbeyan Blues (5) v West Belconnen Warriors (6) on Saturday at 3:00pm at Seiffert Oval

The last time these two sides met West Belconnen were left completely humiliated with the Blues registering a demoralising 98-0 victory.

Changes were subsequently made this season with the arrival of a new coach in Justin Giteau and a host of talented recruits headlined by forwards Scott Jones, Naseri Naseri and John Papalii.

As such, Blues centre and last year’s leading try scorer Tyler Stevens, is expecting a far greater obstacle this time around.

“West Belconnen will definitely be different to the side we played last year,” said Stevens, who scored a hat-trick in their last encounter. “They look like a whole new team under Gits’ coaching so we’ll have to be on the ball this weekend.”

Warriors five-eighth Joe Cramp, who was a part of last year’s side which finished with the wooden spoon, has seen first-hand the changes undertaken at the club.

“Last year was really difficult but we’ve come out the other side and things are looking very positive under the coaching of Justin,” Cramp said. “There is a really good vibe around training and we’ve brought in some experienced guys who have played some high level footy; they’ve really been a benefit to the younger guys.

“We started well with a good win over the Scholars but had a hangover of sorts the next weekend against Gungahlin and a few fundamental errors got in the way of us beating the Bushrangers last weekend. We’ve addressed those errors at training though and we’re ready for a big test against some quality opposition."

Unfortunately for the Warriors, the Blues received a boost in the lead up to the match having undergone a full opposed session with the Canberra Raiders NRL side.

“It was really interesting and beneficial for us to do something like that,” Stevens said. “It was good to come up against a full NRL side in an opposed session and we’ve taken a lot away from that. It was a great experience.”

Belconnen United Scholars (7) v Tuggeranong Bushrangers (2) on Saturday at 3:00pm at Northbourne Oval

The Belconnen United Scholars will be searching for their first win of the season when they take on the Tuggeranong Bushrangers at home.

After being one of the powerhouses in the TTM Canberra Raiders Cup in recent years, the Scholars are currently undergoing a rebuilding phase.

“We’ve still got a talented roster but we’ve lost a lot of experience,” hooker Luke Ashlin said. “We’ve had some senior players move on and have had to blood a lot of our younger guys.

“The younger players have all got a lot of talent but some have adjusted better than others. As a whole they’re developing with each game, we just need to be patient with them.”

Tuggeranong lost the first match of the year but have responded with two stellar wins over the Rams and the Warriors in consecutive weeks.

The brilliant attacking talents and leadership of fullback Michael Brophy will again need to be on song for the Bushrangers to topple a determined Scholars outfit.

Gungahlin Bulls (3) v Woden Valley Rams (8) on Saturday at 3:00pm at Gungahlin Town Centre Oval

Statistically the odds are stacked against Woden in this encounter; after four rounds the Rams are ranked as the worst defensive side in the competition whilst the Gungahlin Bulls are ranked as the best attacking team.

Nonetheless, Woden Assistant Coach Ash Barnes says the side is heading into the encounter in a confident frame of mind.

“It’s unfortunate that we’re sitting at bottom of the ladder and winless after three games but we’re not too dismayed in how we’ve been playing,” Barnes said.

“Aside from the loss to Tuggeranong, we’ve been highly competitive in our other two games against both of last year’s Grand Finalists in the Roos and the Blues.

“In both of those games we’ve been beaten by less than eight points so we know we can compete with the top sides in the competition.”

Gungahlin have been a vastly improved outfit this season on the back of several new signings headlined by former Canberra Raiders NRL centre David Howell.

“Howell is definitely a player that we will have to watch out for,” Barnes said. “He’s got a mountain of experience and is still very sharp out wide according to reports.”

Queanbeyan Kangaroos (1) v Goulburn Workers Bulldogs (4) on Saturday at 3:00pm at Freebody Oval

Goulburn has a prime opportunity to prove that they are a semi-final-worthy side when they take on the undefeated and top of the table Queanbeyan Kangaroos this Saturday.

Under new Captain-Coach Mick Picker, the Bulldogs have looked promising so far in 2014 and look on track to achieve their goal of making the semi-finals, a feat they failed to achieve last year.

“Making the semis is definitely one of our goals this year,” Picker said. “I know the boys were very disappointed that they didn’t make them last year so that’s a big focus for us. There's still a long way to go though and we've got a massive test this weekend.

“The Roos are the reigning premiers and have been the best side so far this year. It will be a big test for us and a good measure of where we are at.”

Queanbeyan has the best for-and-against record in the competition and are ranked as the best defensive side statistically.

Goulburn has the second best attack in the competition with the combination between the Picker brothers – halfback Mick and hooker Ben – particularly dynamic.

Whilst the Kangaroos’ defensive structure is well respected and rightly so, they could potentially face their biggest test this Saturday.