NRL Match Preview: Raiders v Dragons
Canberra Raiders v St George Illawarra Dragons
Saturday March 21, 5:30pm, GIO Stadium
CLICK HERE to purchase tickets
Coverage: Live on FOXSports1
Referees: Jared Maxwell and Gavin Morris
Video Referees: Steve Chiddy
Canberra’s famed 11 game, 13 year “hoodoo” was broken last year, however with a new-look team and a blossoming cultural shift under the watch of Coach Ricky Stuart, Round 3 presents an opportunity for the Green Machine to implement a new run of supremacy over the St George Illawarra Dragons at home.
The Raiders enjoy a healthy, yet fearsome rivalry with the Dragons with fans from both sides pencilling in when they lock horns as soon as the draw is released.
For a Raiders fan, there is nothing better than sending the Red V Army out of GIO Stadium and back up the Federal Highway with another defeat on their tally board.
The players too enjoy the rivalry, as Captain Jarrod Croker attests.
“It definitely is a much-hyped game each year and one that both the players and fans from either side definitely look forward to,” Croker enthused.
“We’ve had some cracking games against each other since I’ve been in first grade, some of which have been decided in the final minutes of play, and I'm sure this Saturday will be another hotly-contested encounter.
“It doesn’t matter where either side is situated on the ladder, we both lift for this game; you don’t want to lose to the Dragons and they don’t want to lose to us.
“It was very unfortunate that the “hoodoo” at GIO Stadium was broken this year, but now we’ve got an opportunity to start another one!”
Both sides are coming off a loss, however the Dragons are win-less for the year thus far and will be fiercely determined to turn this statistic around.
“They haven’t had the best start to the year result-wise, so we’re expecting a very determined Dragons side,” prop Shannon Boyd said.
“We’re more worried about ourselves though; we’re coming off a loss and we want to get back into the winner’s circle.”
Both sides have reshuffled line-ups for this Saturday’s clash due to injury and suspension, with the loss of star fullbacks Jack Wighton and Josh Dugan headlining the changes.
CLICK HERE for the team line-up!
Wighton sustained an eye socked injury in the loss to the Warriors and the capable Jordan Rapana comes into replace him. In his first game of the year last week, winger Jeremy Hawkins was suspended for a week after a tackle on Manu Vatuvei.
Edrick Lee subsequently shifts from centre to wing, and Jarrad Kennedy from back-row to centre.
Kennedy’s shift paves the way for Dane Tilse’s return to first grade, with Josh Papalii shifting back to the second-row, and what a match for Tilse to return for!
Tilse, the team’s most capped current player, will play his 200th NRL match this Saturday, giving the Green Machine an added incentive for victory.
“Not that we need another reason to win, but Tilsey is a much-loved member of this club so we will definitely be doing our best to make it a memorable occasion for him!” Croker said.
Sisa Waqa v Jason Nightingale
With 81 tries in 180 NRL games and 16 tries in 24 Tests for New Zealand, Nightingale’s statistics alone typify how much of a brilliantly consistent performer he is.
He is unorthodox in his methods, yet evidently effective in his results. Added to his make-up is the fact the he has been named Captain in place of the injured Ben Creagh, and the proud clubman will no doubt go to another level with the honour.
Waqa has already proven to be an astute recruit, scoring two tries from the first two appearances. His latest effort against the Warriors conveyed just how dangerous he is in the air.
CLICK HERE to see Waqa's try!
“Edrick and Sisa are both lethal in the air so we’re going to have to utilise that more,” Cornish said. “They’re great leapers and even if you skew your kick a little bit you know that they’re going to fight hard and get up for it. They both have an ability to save a bad kick.”
Josh Papalii v Joel Thompson
Former Raider Thompson knows just how intense the Canberra-St George Illawarra is after having experience as an insider in both camps.
More importantly, Thompson is one of the Dragons’ most dangerous forwards and is primed for a big match against his former team mates. Thompson has also been intrusted to lead the side forward being one of the most senior members of St George Illawarra’s forward pack.
The Indigenous All Stars rep is a great line-runner and a tough tackler and his battle with Josh Papalii shapes as a beauty. Both players share a friendship off the field, but are certain to leave that aside for 80 minutes as they try and secure a win for their respective sides.
Paul Vaughan v Trent Merrin
Despite the fact that they are coming off the interchange bench, utility forwards Vaughan and Merrin, are highly influential members of their clubs.
The pair are representative class players who each possess tremendous leg speed, a high work-rate and brutality in defence.
When either Vaughan or Merrin enter the fray, opposition teams are put on notice due to their ability to lift the tempo of play.
Merrin’s ability to offload amidst heavy traffic will be highly focused on by Canberra’s defensive structure.
Record against the Dragons:
In a total of 24 games against St George Illawarra, Canberra has won 16 games, lost 7 and drawn on one occasion.
Dragons’ record at GIO Stadium:
In a total of 15 games played at GIO Stadium, the Dragons have won on just three occasions.
Last three encounters:
1. Dragons defeated Raiders 34-16 at GIO Stadium in Round 23, 2014
2. Raiders defeated Dragons 22-18 at WIN Stadium in Round 20, 2013
3. Raiders defeated Dragons 30-17 at GIO Stadium in Round 3, 2013
HE SAID IT
Shannon Boyd: “It was unfortunate that I didn’t get to play in Round 1, so I made sure that I went back down to Mounties and put in a good performance. It was good to get recalled for Round 2 but I wasn’t too happy with my minutes so I’m aiming to get more game time this week.”
CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Boyd.
Mitch Cornish: “I’m looking to take my game to another level. Ricky and I are both pretty hard markers on my game so I take the advice that he gives me on board and then work hard at it on the training paddock.”
CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Cornish.
Josh Hodgson: “I think that the ruck speed is a lot quicker here compared to the English Super League due to having the two referees on the park. I'm enjoying the challenge.”
CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Hodgson.
Jordan Rapana: “I love playing fullback. It’s definitely my most familiar position as I’ve played it most of my life. I’m excited and ready to go!”
CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Rapana.