CANBERRA RAIDERS V ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
SUNDAY MAY 17, 11.45AM, WIN STADIUM
The Canberra Raiders NYC side is riding on a high after thrashing the Titans 46-18 at home last weekend and the team will look to take advantage of this renewal in confidence when they face their fierce rivals, the St George Illawarra Dragons, on Sunday.
The side is currently placed at 7th on the ladder and a win this Sunday will not only cement their current position within the top eight, but may potentially see the Green Machine force their way into the top four of the Holden Cup.
After a disappointing loss to the Rabbitohs the week prior, the Raiders bounced back with vigour against the Titans last round.
Playing a leading role in the emphatic victory was star halfback Lachlan Croker.
In his return game from a shoulder injury which had sidelined him for multiple weeks, Croker scored a hat-trick of tries, slotted 7/8 conversions and contributed several try assists. His performance showed just how much direction, leadership and attacking potency he adds to the side.
Croker said that he has missed playing with his team mates whilst being sidelined with his injury and is over the moon to be back on the field in the famous lime green jersey.
“I’ve had four to five weeks out and I’ve missed playing every one of those weeks,” Croker said. “It was especially tough seeing the boys having to play with a lot of players out but to their credit they have been playing some really good, wholehearted football. It’s been great to be out playing again though.”
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Whilst the NYC side has missed the attacking flair of Croker, he has admitted that other players have helped keep the side moving in a positive direction.
“We’ve had a lot of guys step up during my injury, particularly Brenko Lee, and I also thought that Morgan Boyle played really good footy through those stages. It was upsetting being injured but I knew that I’d always get back and start playing some good footy again.”
Although the Dragons NYC side is currently sitting in last place on the ladder, and the last time the two sides met the Green Machine came out victorious 60-10, Croker pointed out that the team will be facing a different St George Illawarra outfit this weekend.
“We know the team is going to be very different, because they had a lot of guys out through injury the last time we played them,” the Goulburn Bulldogs junior said. “Obviously playing at their home ground is another advantage for them as well. We know that they are going to give it to us and we’ll be equal to the challenge.”
With the rivalry being strong between the two clubs, Croker also pointed out some improvements that are necessary for the Green Machine to come away with the two points.
“We need to improve our timing on a lot of things,” said the NSW Under 18’s representative. “I haven’t had much footy experience the last couple of weeks and we also have had our five-eighth Lachlan Lewis out with injury so we have struggled with any fluency and timing in attack. Hopefully that will improve this weekend and the boys in the middle continue to do the job for us so that the boys out on the edges can receive more quality ball.”
Whilst a win over the Dragons will see the Raiders climb up the top eight ladder, a loss may also see them drop out of the eight altogether given the closeness of the competition. With that in mind, Mick Mantelli’s men can ill afford to take the cellar dwelling Dragons lightly.