Canberra Raiders v Melbourne Storm

Sunday April 4, 2:00pm, GIO Stadium

CLICK HERE to purchase tickets!

Coverage: Foxsports 1

Referees: Matt Checchin and Chris Treneman

Video Referees: Steve Chiddy and Luke Phillips

The Canberra Raiders have acquired an added spring in their step following their comprehensive victory over the Manly Sea Eagles, and the Green Machine now has their eyes firmly planted on securing back-to-back victories over the Melbourne Storm this Sunday.

On the back of three consecutive defeats, the Raiders answered their inaccurate critics in the best possible fashion, with a 29-16 victory over a team that finished in the top four the previous year.

Canberra is yet to register back-to-back victories this year and making the challenge all the more confronting is the fact that they take on the might of the Melbourne Storm, who are sitting in 5th place on the ladder.

“It was a great performance from the boys both offensively and defensively last week,” seasoned back-rower Sia Soliola said.

“Even though we had lost three games in a row prior to that, the boys never lost confidence in ourselves or in Ricky’s game plans.

“We knew that we had a quality team that just needed a few minor changes to get the ball rolling.

“We’re nowhere near the finished product yet but we’re moving in the right direction. In saying that though, we can’t afford to get carried away with the win over Manly because the Storm will be a very tough opponent for us.”

Alas, with the match being played at GIO Stadium, and the incomparable talents of Billy Slater unavailable for the Storm due to a shoulder injury he sustained in the win over the Warriors, many are predicting the Raiders to come up trumps in Round 6.

“There’s no doubt that losing Slater is a massive blow for them but let’s not forget that they have other world class players in Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith and Jesse Bromwich at their disposal still. It’s a tough assignment for us this weekend and we will be up for the challenge,” Soliola added.

Although he is at pain to concede that his milestone will act as an added incentive for his team mates, the fact of the matter is that celebrating the much-loved Dane Tilse’s 200th game for the club will also act as added motivation.

Tilse, whose father Mick was a foundation player at the club, will become just the 10th player to reach the 200 game milestone for the Raiders, joining an illustrious list of players that includes Jason Croker, Laurie Daley, Steve Walters and current coach Ricky Stuart.

Given that Tilse will depart the club after Round 7 to join Hull KR in the English Super League, the match will also serve as a farewell of sorts.

“Tilse is a massive part of our club and has been for the last decade,” Captain Jarrod Croker said.

“He is an extremely popular member of the playing group; the boys absolutely love him. It was disappointing that we didn’t get a win for him in his 200th NRL match, but we’ll be doing our best to make sure he remembers his 200th game for the Raiders fondly.”

“I consider myself a Raiders man through and through,” Tilse added. “So to reach 200 games for the club, in what will be a home game, will go down as a great memory for me.

“We want to win regardless though; I hope the boys don’t make it all about me.”

There is just one team change for the Raiders this week with Jeremy Hawkins replacing the suspended Jordan Rapana.

CLICK HERE for the team line- up! 

KEY MATCHUPS

Sisa Waqa v Marika Koribete

The individual battle between Fijian flyers Waqa and Koroibete will be as entertaining as they come. There are few players in the NRL who are better to watch in open pastures than these two former team mates.

Koroibete has been particularly impressive so far in 2015, with his four tries in five appearances drawing praise from Waqa.

“Markia has been killing it so far this year man,” Waqa said. “Last weekend he got them out of jail a few times with some of his runs and obviously his two tries were fantastic. He’s very talented and brings a lot to the Storm.”

Waqa has been similarly impressive for the Green Machine with three tries from five appearances, and his switch to right centre provides the side with another attacking dimension.

Josh Hodgson v Cameron Smith

After a tremendous start to his NRL career, Hodgson will face his toughest individual challenge to date when he confronts the world’s premier hooker in Cameron Smith.

“He’s the best hooker in the game so it will be a difficult proposition for me and a great test to see where I’m at as a dummy half,” Hodgson said.

Hodgson was one of the side’s best in the win over the Sea Eagles and his developing combination between Wighton, Austin and Williams is one that is exciting Raiders fans.

Sia Soliola v Kevin Proctor

In an ironic individual match-up, fans will see the man that decided to join the Raiders pitted against the man who turned his back on the club.

Not that the club is complaining.

Soliola has proved to be a tremendous asset to the Raiders both on and off the field. The premiership winning forward (English Super League) averages 119 metres in attack and 37 tackles in defence, but it is his astute and caring guidance of the club’s younger brigade which has been the most beneficial.

STAT ATTACK

Record against the Storm:

In a total of 36 games against Melbourne, Canberra has won 10 games, lost 25 and drawn on one occasion.

Storm record at GIO Stadium:

In a total of 17 games played at GIO Stadium, Melbourne has won on 11 occaisions.

Last three encounters:

1.        Storm defeated Raiders 28-14 at AAMI Park in Round 19, 2014

2.        Raiders defeated Storm 24-22 at GIO Stadium in Round 7, 2014

3.        Storm defeated Raiders 68-4 at GIO Stadium in Round 21, 2013


HE SAID IT

Jordan Rapana: “It’s disappointing that I won’t be out there with the boys this Sunday, but that’s just something I will have to work on in my game. I can’t afford to keep missing games here or there. Hawko will do a great job though; he’s a very strong and powerful runner.”

CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Rapana.

Sia Soliola: “I respect Kevin Proctor. He’s quite a player; he’s proven that for the Storm regularly and on the international stage for New Zealand so I’ve got quite the challenge on my hands.”

Sisa Waqa: “I’m looking forward to coming up against my old side, the Storm, for the first time. I’ve still got a lot of friends there but I will be doing my best to get the win for the Raiders. I’m loving it here and the club has been very good to me.”

CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Waqa.

Sam Williams: “It was really nervous and exciting to get my first game of the year for the club and to top it off with a win was great. Hopefully we can now build on that, starting with another win over the Storm.”

CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Williams.