Canberra Raiders v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
Sunday March 8, 4.15pm, Remondis Stadium
The Raiders NYC team begin their 2015 campaign on Sunday afternoon, when they travel to Remondis Stadium to take on the Cronulla Sharks.
Coach Mick Mantelli has been able to name a very strong line-up for the contest, which includes six players who have trained and trialled with the NRL squad during the pre-season.
Lachlan Croker, Jack Williams, Tevita Pangai Junior, Andrew Heffernan, Brenko Lee and Captain Luke Bateman have all been named for the contest, giving the Raiders a very formidable outfit for the opening match of the season.
CLICK HERE to see the team for Round 1.
Mantelli says there’s plenty of anticipation to see how the team performs at the beginning of the NYC season and said the addition of the six senior players for round one is a huge bonus for the younger players in the team.
“We’re very excited about this season, we’ve got a good crop of players coming through as we always do and we’ve put things in place for a good start to round one,” Mantelli said. “I’m looking forward to them coming back and being our leaders on the field and even coaches for some of the young players.
“The boys have watched them go through the NRL trials and seen them perform well, so they’ll be very excited to be part of the team with them.”
As always the Raiders junior grades have continued the production line of talented halves and Mantelli said the talented pairing of Lachlan Croker and Lachlan Lewis is one of the best combinations he’s seen at this level.
“They’re two very good up and coming halves and I can see them being the future of the Raiders,” he said. “There’s a bit of pressure on Lachie Croker but I’m sure he’s up for the job.”
One player who’s become the sides Mr Fix-it over the past two seasons has been Andrew Heffernan, who’s covered a number of positions including halfback, five-eighth and centre.
Mantelli has decided to start Heffernan at fullback this year and said he’ll be looking for him to help lead the team around the park.
“He (Heffernan) brings a lot of experience, he won’t let us down and we know he’ll make good decisions and that’s what we want from him.”
The forward pack for the Raiders features the formidable back row partnership of Tevita Pangai Junior and Captain Luke Bateman and Mantelli expects these players to provide guidance for the younger members of the Raiders pack.
“We’ve got a very strong back row with Luke Bateman and Tevita Pangai Junior,” he said. “We’ve got an inexperienced middle, but I’m sure they’re going to learn from the wealth of experience from what’s around them.”
Mantelli said he expects the Sharks to be very hard to beat at home in their first match of the season and said their five-eighth Jaden Clarke would need to be contained if they were to halt the Sharks attack.
“He’s a very good player and a lot of their attack comes from him so we’ll need to make sure we put pressure on him in defence,” he said. “I also see Valentine Holmes has been named on an extended bench for the NRL team but he could come back as well so they’ll be very dangerous.”