NRL Match Preview: Raiders v Rabbitohs

Canberra Raiders v South Sydney Rabbitohs

Sunday April 26, 4:00pm, Barlow Park, Cairns

CLICK HERE to purchase tickets!

Coverage: Channel 9

Referees: Adam Devcich and Nick Morel

Video Referees: Bernard Sutton and Ben Galea

After the greatest comeback in the club’s illustrious history, the Canberra Raiders will travel up to Cairns to take on the defending premiers the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Down 22-0 at after just 25 minutes, things were looking grim for the Green Machine at Leichhardt Oval in Round 7.

Many were writing the side off and predicting a blow-out score line but the Raiders never lost their composure, nor faith in each other and Coach Ricky Stuart’s game plan.

Their fighting spirit and brotherly camaraderie got them home that day, and tenacious hooker Josh Hodgson believes that the historic victory has heightened the side’s confidence and self-belief.

“We’ve had a couple of good comeback wins when I was at Hull, but I don’t think anything I’ve experienced comes quite as close to that,” Hodgson said.

“It was a fantastic win for us and certainly morale boosting for us in terms of the belief and the determination that we’ve got. We’ve taken a lot away from the win, but at the same time we’re not getting too carried away because Souths will be tough to beat and we’ve still got plenty to improve on.”

Whilst the players are unwilling to compare the bravery and sacrifice that Australian and New Zealand servicemen gave at Gallipoli to what they go through on a football field, the Raiders will look to channel their spirit during the Round 8 clash.

To assist in commemorating ANZAC Day, the Raiders will wear a specially designed jersey. Following the conclusion of the match, the jerseys will be auctioned off with 100% of the proceeds to be dispersed between Soldier On, Legacy and the Woden RSL Club.

CLICK HERE to bid on one of the ANZAC jerseys.

“The jerseys look absolutely fantastic and it’s a real privilege and honour to wear them and celebrate what the ANZAC’s have done for our country,” Captain Jarrod Croker said. “We’ve had quite a few functions in the lead up to the match including a presentation from Victoria Cross recipient Daniel Keighran which was very inspiring.

“There is no comparison whatsoever with what we do on the football field and what those soldiers did for our country but we will definitely be taking their spirit out with us on the field. It’s hard not to be inspired by their stories.”

The Rabbitohs are sitting in fourth position on the ladder however they have lost their last two fixtures; a statistic which is very uncommon under the reign of Michael Maguire.

Much of their uncharacteristic form has been due to the loss of their on-field general Adam Reynolds to injury.

With a potential halves replacement in John Sutton also on the casualty list, Maguire has been forced to shift Luke Keary from five-eighth to halfback, and bring in deputy hooker Cameron McInness to five-eighth.

For Canberra, Paul Vaughan is elevated to the starting front-row alongside Frank-Paul Nuuausala following the departure of Dane Tilse to Hull KR, whilst the inspirational services of Shaun Fensom return to the side at lock after successfully recovering from his ankle injury.

On the interchange bench, Mark Nicholls comes into the side for young Luke Bateman, whilst Kyle O’Donnell and Jeremy Hawkins have been named on an extended bench.

CLICK HERE for the team line- up! 

The Raiders are sitting in 14th position on the ladder and one of eight teams locked on six competition points. A win over the Bunnies will see Canberra climb considerably closer towards the top eight and amend their negatively geared for-and-against record.

A win this Sunday will also see the Green Machine string together back-to-back wins for the first time in 2015, which would be a terrific way to celebrate Sia Soliola’s 100th NRL game.

KEY MATCHUPS

Jack Wighton v Greg Inglis

Wighton unashamedly admits that he idolises Greg Inglis, and why wouldn’t he? Inglis has proved time and time again at club, state and international level why he is considered a modern day great.

Whilst Wighton still has a while to go to be even compared to Inglis, the pair do bring a lot of similarities to their respective sides.

Both players are excellent ball runners, whether it be on a kick return, hitting a hole or accelerating onto an offload. Interestingly, Wighton averages more metres per game than Inglis – 161 metres per game, compared to Inglis’ 150.

Their athleticism and presence out the back gives their team mates confidence and their individual battle should be an absolute treat for the people of Cairns.

Josh Hodgson v Isaac Luke

Simply put, Hodgson has been an outstanding acquisition to the Raiders and has provided a lot of stability, spark and toughness to the hooking role.

In recent weeks, Hodgson, an English international in 2014, has come up against two of the best hookers in Australia in Cameron Smith and Robbie Farah and more than held his own.

It doesn’t get any easier for the 25 year old this week, coming up against New Zealand’s premier hooker Isaac Luke.

“I’ve never played against Isaac before but I’ve seen him play quite a few times,” Hodgson said. “He’s a great player with a dangerous running game and he’s one of many in their team that we will be looking to shut down.”

Shannon Boyd v George Burgess

Boyd certainly delivered a lot of impact for the Green Machine in his return from a shoulder injury, scoring the side’s opening try with a barnstorming run late in the first half.

When the Cowra Magpies junior carries the ball into the teeth of the defensive line, he visibly dents it, and then backs it up with a very quick play-the-ball. This provides tremendous momentum for his fellow forwards and time for hookers Hodgson and Baptiste to weave their creativity.

In the absence of elder brother Sam, George Burgess has been a colossus up front for the Rabbitohs averaging 145 metres per game. Like Boyd, he also possesses a quick play-the-ball and carries the ball with a great deal of ferocity and power.

STAT ATTACK

Record against the Rabbitohs:

In a total of 51 games against Souths, Canberra has won 28 games, lost 22 and drawn on one occasions.

Raiders & Rabbitohs record at Barlow Park:

This will be the first time that the Raiders and the Rabbitohs have played against one another at Barlow Park, Cairns.

Last three encounters:

1.        Rabbitohs defeated Raiders 34-18 at GIO Stadium in Round 20, 2014

2.        Raiders defeated Rabbitohs 30-18 at ANZ Stadium in Round 4, 2014

3.        Rabbitohs defeated Raiders 32-2 at ANZ Stadium in Round 16, 2013


HE SAID IT

Kurt Baptiste: “It’s great to be back and I’m really grateful that Ricky has given me another opportunity in first grade. I’m happy to be back here and I’m looking forward to making the most of my opportunity.”

CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Baptiste

Josh Hodgson: “It has been a good test for me coming up against other hookers who are said to be the best in the world like Smith, Farah and now Isaac Luke, but it’s not about individual tests. It’s not a selfish game it’s a team game. ”

CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Hodgson.

Josh Papalii: “ANZAC Day is a massive occasion for Australia and New Zealand. It was a massive honour for myself to learn more about the soldiers and their sacrifice at the Australian War Memorial during the week and it’s a real honour to be able to honour them on the weekend and thank them for all that we have.”

CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Papalii.