TTM Canberra Raiders Cup: Round 2 Preview

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Queanbeyan Kangaroos (7) v Belconnen United Scholars (6) on Saturday at 3:00pm at Freebody Oval

The Roos and the Scholars have enjoyed a healthy rivalry over the last couple of years, with the highlight of course being the 2012 Grand Final.

Both sides will be searching for their first win of the season after going down in the opening round of the TTM Canberra Raiders Cup. Queanbeyan went down 36-16 to West Belconnen, whilst the Scholars fell 36-22 to Goulburn.

Belconnen United and Queanbeyan are both in rebuilding phases, with only two Scholars players remaining from 2014 and the Roos having lost the experience of Matt Lewis, Jordan Macey and Daniel Watt, all of whom were central to their 2013 Premiership win.

Fortunately for the Roos, they still have the experience and leadership of Captain-Coach Aaron Gorrell at five-eighth, whilst the Scholars have employed the services of former Raiders Under 20’s Coach Sid Burgess to oversee their exciting crop of juniors.

Gungahlin Bulls (8) v West Belconnen Warriors (2) on Saturday at 3:00pm at Gungahlin Enclosed Oval

Gungahlin will look to bounce back from a disappointing opening round performance, in which they were comprehensively defeated by a strong Blues line-up by 22 points.

The Bulls will look to put on a good showing in front of their fans in what will be their first home match of the year and they will need to be at their best against a talented West Belconnen outfit.

The Warriors enjoyed a 20 point victory in Round 1, despite losing the services of star player and club captain Haydon Hodge early on in the encounter.

In what is a massive blow for West Belconnen, the luckless Hodge, who featured in the Auckland Nines for the Raiders earlier in the year, has injured his knee and will be sidelined for the remainder of the year.

West Belconnen however welcomes back promising young halfback Tim Middleton, who missed the opening round due to a minor knee injury. A Canowndra junior, Middleton trained with the Raiders NYC squad over the pre-season and will add plenty of creativity and spark to the Warriors’ play.

Goulburn Workers Bulldogs (3) v Tuggeranong Bushrangers (5) on Saturday at 3:00pm at Workers Arena

2014 runner’s up Goulburn will be looking to secure back-to-back victories to start the when year when they take on Tuggeranong at home.

The Bulldogs defeated the Scholars in Round 1 whilst Tuggeranong will be searching for their first win of the year after being narrowly defeated by four points by Woden.

A highlight of this encounter will be the clash between star fullbacks Michael Bani (Goulburn) and Matt Gruber (Tuggeranong).

Bani’s attacking brilliance proved the difference in Goulburn’s win over Belconnen United, with the former Manly and North Queensland flyer scoring a slashing ty and setting up another at a crucial stage.

After a few years out of the game, Gruber drew specific praise from Woden Coach Ash Barnes after his Round 1 display.

“Matt Gruber was really good for them at fullback,” Barnes said. “He’s had a couple of years out with injury but he certainly hasn’t lost any of his talent. He’s forced Michael Brophy out to the centres so that certainly shows how good he is."

Woden Valley Rams (4) v Queanbeyan Blues (1) on Sunday at 3:00pm at Phillip District Oval

One of the difficulties of being the defending premiers is that every team in the competition lifts their intensity when they clash with you.

And that is the case the Queanbeyan Blues are faced with in 2015, something experienced forward Aaron McInness is well aware of.

“Every side is improving and we’ve got to try and stay ahead of that,” McInness said. “We’ve got a big assignment ahead of ourselves to try and go back-to-back and with that comes a lot of hard work because every team is out to get you and really rises for the occasion.”

Luckily, the Blues have retained a strong nucleus of last year’s premiership winning team.

“We’ve probably got 10 or 11 guys backing up from last year’s team, and a lot in key positions which is helpful for continuity,” McInness said.

“Woden will be hard to beat; I remember last year we had a 10 all draw with them so we know that they’ve got a lot of talent there.”

That result was one of the highlights for the Rams in 2014, who ended up finishing in 6th place on the ladder.

The Rams were tenacious in their opening round win over the Bushrangers and are pushing for higher honours in 2015 under new Coach Ash Barnes.

“Although it was a fairly scrappy game, we grinded our way through it and competed for the entire 80 minutes,” Woden lock Steven Ferry said. “Last year we probably would have fallen away and let them roll over the top of us, but it was pleasing that we remained in the fight.”

Woden will be hopeful that their parochial home crowd will assist in getting the team over the line.

“We love playing at home,” Ferry said. “There’s normally a fair few people in the crowd supporting us and hopefully that’s the case again this Sunday because the Blues have a great team full of strike players.”