Buoyed by his team’s fighting spirit in last week’s loss to the second placed Parramatat Eels, NYC Coach Mick Mantelli will look for continued improvement when they take on the St George Illawarra Dragons on Saturday morning.
“The effort was there and I thought that the boys really dug in, but we were just outclassed and out-muscled in the end. It’s a good learning curve for these young players moving forward,” Mantelli said.
The most pleasing aspect for Mantelli was his side’s effort against a team that are premiership contenders. Understandably it’s been a frustrating year for the team with injuries cruelling the team’s chances as they were making a push for finals.
Still heavily undermanned through injuries and having their star players given opportunities to strut their stuff for the feeder teams, Mantelli used the opportunity to blood another youngster last week in the form of SG ball player Charlie McKenzie.
McKenzie battled manfully and showed courage when he was taken high by Kaysa Pritchard, the boys will want to use that showing as inspiration for this week’s game against St. George Illawarra.
As has been the case for much of the latter part of the season Mantelli has again been forced to make changes to his side. With Dylan McGrath returning from injury he will start at hooker for the Raiders, while the ever versatile Ricky Garard will return to the centres.
Unfortunately McKenzie has been omitted from this week’s side with Tevita Aroha-Tuinauvai set to start in the second row.
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Trent Schubach is also a possibility of making his return but he has been named as the 18th man on an extended bench. The side could also be boosted on Sunday with the Mounties side retaining some of their stars which could see Andrew Heffernan and Mitchell Barnett return to the team.
One area the boys will be looking to improve this week is in their start to the game. The side have been notoriously slow starters when on the road this year and a return to GIO Stadium might spark the boys who are always keen to perform in front of their home fans.
The side will also be out to break a six game losing streak which stems back to round 15 when the side comfortably disposed of the Canterbury Bulldogs. It will be another good test for the Raiders with the Dragons sitting fifth on the ladder and looking to atone for a loss last week to the Penrith Panthers.
Player to watch – Matthew Frawley
This week’s player to watch is the current captain of the side who has stepped up his leadership in the absence of Patrick Mago and Luke Bateman who have both starred in recent weeks for feeder side Souths Logan.
Frawley possesses a great kicking game and has shown a clean pair of heels highlighted by a clinical try the half back scored in the win over the Bulldogs earlier this year. He will again look to cut the opposition open with his clinical passing game and he looks a bright prospect for the future.
The match against the Dragons will kick off at 10:40am at GIO Stadium Canberra and will be the first of three matches played at the venue on the day with NSW Cup and NRL to follow.
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