NRL Match Preview: Raiders v Titans

Canberra Raiders v Gold Coast Titans on Sunday at 2:00pm at Cbus Super Stadium

Opportunity is rife in sport. This is particularly the case in rugby league; the opportunity to score a try, the opportunity to make a tackle, the opportunity to win a game, the opportunity to make your supporters, team mates and coaches proud… The list is seemingly endless.

The Raiders forthcoming match against the Titans presents the Green Machine with an array of opportunities but as extravagant as many would like to make it seem, the reality is quite simple.

With nine games left in the season, the Raiders want to be successful in every opportunity that presents itself for the remainder of 2014; every tackle, every hit-up and every game.

As legendary NFL Hall of Famer Mike Singletary once rhetorically asked and then answered - “Do you know what my favourite part of the game is? The opportunity to play.”

Singletary didn’t live in the what if or pondered on the future, he lived in the now and confronted every challenge head on. And that is all that the Green Machine can worry about, the next opportunity for success, regardless of where they are on the ladder.

Canberra has the opportunity to extract revenge on the Gold Coast for their defeat earlier in the year in which the Titans ran out victors 24-12.

“The Titans got the wood on us last time in front of our home fans,” lock forward Shaun Fensom said. “Now it’s our turn to go up there, to their home ground, and defeat them in front of their home fans.

“It will be a tough challenge for us but one that we will be ready for,” added Brett White. “The bye has allowed us to freshen up physically and mentally now we’re ready to go this Sunday against the Titans.”

The match against the Titans also presents the opportunity for the Raiders to climb further up the ladder. Currently placed in 15th spot, a victory over the 12th placed Titans will allow them to improve their current position and build for a strong finish to the year.

“We don’t like where we are on the ladder and neither do our fans,” Fensom said. “There’s nine games left in the year and we want to win them all, for our fans and for ourselves.”

Due to injuries, several players have been granted opportunities by Coach Ricky Stuart this week.

Brenko Lee gets an opportunity to showcase his prowess in his favoured position of centre following a broken thumb to Jack Wighton, Sami Sauiluma gets an opportunity to reclaim the promising form he portrayed prior to sustaining an eye injury and Kurt Baptiste gets an opportunity to cement a regular spot in the top 17 with another impressive performance off the interchange bench.

Unfortunately, Jeremy Hawkins has been denied the opportunity to make his NRL debut this week after the Raiders application for him to play was denied by the NRL salary cap team.

CLICK HERE for the full story on Hawkins being ruled out.

A replacement for Hawkins has yet to be decided.

Unlike the Titans’ three Origin representatives, the Raiders didn’t have any players representing their state in Game Three of the series although Kurt Baptiste represented Queensland Residents in the curtain raiser. Fortunately the crafty hooker has come through the match unscathed.

“We’re refreshed after the bye and are chomping at the bit to get back on the field,” Fensom said. “We’ll be taking advantage of every opportunity that we are presented with.”

Key Matchups:

Brenko Lee v Brad Takairangi  

After just two appearances in his uncustomary role on the wing, the exciting prospect that is Brenko Lee gets an opportunity in his favoured position of centre after an injury to Jack Wighton.

Lee had never played wing before prior to his NRL debut against the Bulldogs in Round 15 and despite a few uncharacteristic errors in his first appearance in the top grade, the Souths Logan junior proved his undoubted potential with a brilliant two try performance against the Tigers a week later.

“People don’t realise that he’s never played wing before and if he was going that well in a different position, just think how good he will be playing in his natural position!” Wighton said.

“Brenko is a confident guy who I reckon will thrive with the added pressure of being closer to the action by playing centre.”

Lee’s opponent, Brad Takairangi, whilst adept at playing centre, is primarily a back-rower. Watch for Lee to exploit this with his pace and guile.

Josh McCrone v Daniel Mortimer

Since switching to the Gold Coast mid-year, Daniel Mortimer has proved to be a fantastic asset to a Titans side which had lost first string halves Aiden Sezar, Albert Kelly and Beau Henry to extended periods on the sideline.

Mortimer has provided the formidable Gold Coast outfit with direction, composure and an accurate kicking game. In addition to this the former Rooster has injected plenty of creativity, contributing four try assists in his two appearances for the Titans so far this year.

With an imposing pack and dangerous outside backs , shutting down Mortimer will be a key focus for the Green Machine as it will limit their impact on proceedings.

For the Raiders, McCrone’s direction and kicking game must be on song to prevent the Titans’ dynamic back three of Zillman, Gordon and Mead from cutting their defence to smithereens on kick returns.

Paul Vaughan v Dave Taylor

“Beware a fired up Dave Taylor”

These will be words emphasised by Ricky Stuart and the rest of the coaching staff in the lead up to this Sunday’s clash.

Taylor had an off-game in State of Origin Game Three in which he was hooked to the interchange bench by Coach Mal Meninga after two consecutive handling errors.

As such, the Raiders can prepare for the coal train to be well and truly fired up to make up for Wednesday night’s embarrassment.

Taylor will enter the fray from the interchange bench where John Cartwright will utilise his blockbusting charges on some tired Canberra defenders.

Taylor’s impact can be mirrored for the Raiders through Country representative Paul Vaughan. Similar to Taylor, Vaughan possesses a massive frame as well as being blessed with tremendous leg speed.

His ability to increase the tempo in the middle of the field is a great asset to the Green Machine.

Stat Attack:

Last 3 results:

- Gold Coast defeated Canberra 24-12 at GIO Stadium Canberra in Round 3 2014

- Gold Coast defeated Canberra 36-0 at Cbus Super Stadium in Round 2 2013

- Gold Coast defeated Canberra 38-26 at GIO Stadium Canberra in Round 19 2012

Record against the Tigers:

In a total of 13 games against the Titans, the Raiders have registered just five wins and suffered eight losses.

Raiders record at Cbus Super Stadium:

In a total of seven games played at Cbus Super Stadium, the Raiders have won on just one occasion and lost on six.

They said it:

Dane Tilse: “It’s disappointing for Jeremy that he can’t play but those are the rules so there’s no point arguing with them. I’m sure he will play first grade next year but for now he needs to continue his outstanding form for Mounties in the NSW Cup.”

http://www.raiders.com.au/news/2014/07/09/set_of_six_dane_tilse.html

Brett White: “The bye has allowed us to freshen up physically and mentally now we’re ready to go this Sunday against the Titans. It will be a tough challenge for us but one that we will be ready for.” 

http://www.raiders.com.au/news/2014/07/08/refreshed_and_ready_to_go_.html

Jack Wighton: “I think Brenko will kill it in the centres this week,” Wighton said. “It’s his favourite position and the position that suits him best. He’s got very good feet, good pace and great, natural awareness in attack. He will love being closer to the action at centre.”

http://www.raiders.com.au/news/2014/07/09/wighton_backs_lee_to_succeed_on_centre_state.html