NRL Match Preview: Raiders v Bulldogs

Canberra Raiders v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

Sunday May 24, 4:00pm, GIO Stadium

CLICK HERE to purchase tickets!

Coverage: Channel 9 (Live), Foxsports 1 (Delayed), Radio: ABC, Triple M

Referees: Ashley Klein and Henry Perenara

Video Referees: Jeff Younis and Peter Gough

Beware the Wounded Bulldog

Despite the fact that the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs will be without their four Origin representatives, and two other stars due to injury, the Canberra Raiders are bracing themselves for a thoroughly torrid, physical encounter at GIO Stadium, as the Green Machine looks to bounce back from last week’s loss to the Dragons.

The Bulldogs will be without forwards Josh Jackson, David Klemmer, centre Josh Morris and halfback Trent Hodkinson due to selection in the NSW side for Game 1 of the State of Origin series, whilst Captain James Graham has been ruled out with concussion and international speedster Brett Morris sidelined with injury.

Nonetheless, the Raiders are not falling into the trap of heading into the encounter with any false bravado or complacency given that the Bulldogs still possess eight internationals in their listed 17 and are coached by a premiership winner who absolutely despises losing.

“Regardless of those players being out, they’ve got plenty of depth and they’ve got a great coach in Des Hasler who will have them fired up,” prop David Shillington said. “It’s going to be a tough game.”

“We’re not looking into that at all,” added Blake Austin. “Des Hasler will have them ready to go and he’s got Moses Mbye and some big, talented guys ready to step and fill their shoes. We know that we are in for a big game on Sunday.”

Canberra’s three match winning streak came to a halt last weekend at the hands of arch rivals, St George Illawarra, and the 6th placed Raiders will look to bounce back by replicating the outstanding performance of their last match at GIO Stadium, the 56-16 triumph over the Gold Coast.

“It was fantastic to be able to finally reward our supporters with a win of that calibre at home,” Austin said. “That will mean little if we lose to the Dogs this Sunday though. We want to turn around our loss to the Dragons and start some form at home with back-to-back games there.”

The 14th placed Bulldogs have lost five of their past six matches however they can draw confidence from the fact that they have won six of the past nine clashes between the two sides.

Whilst the Bulldogs have a host of changes, Ricky Stuart has been able to name an unchanged line-up.

CLICK HERE for the team line-up! 

KEY MATCHUPS

Blake Austin v Josh Reynolds

After Reynolds’ axing from the NSW Origin team, Austin is anticipating a spirited performance from his opposite number.

“I think that Josh will respond the way that all the good players do; he’s going to put in a good performance and we’re going to have to be on our toes with him,” Austin said.

“Josh is a player that brings a lot of energy to his team and that’s definitely how I try and play my footy too. For me personally, I’m going to have to match his energy and try and be the spark for our team as he is going to try and be for his.”

Reynolds will no doubt be the chief playmaker for the Bulldogs given the absent of Hodkinson, whilst Austin will again look to utilise his lethal running game which has reaped 8 line breaks and 5 tries so far. In comparison, Reynolds is yet to score in 2015.

Frank-Paul Nuuausala v Sam Kasiano

Given the absence of Graham, Jackson and Klemmer, Hasler will be expecting Kasiano to lift his performance to combat the absence of the representative trio.

At his best, the monstrous Kasiano is as destructive as he is skilful. With a full head of steam, the Kiwi international requires multiple defenders to bring him down, whilst with ball in hand, Kasiano has a sublimely deft passing game before and through the line.

After a tremendous start to the year, Nuuausala had perhaps his quietest game for the year against the Dragons, running for under 50 metres and registering under 20 tackles.

Look for Nuuausala to lead the way forward on Sunday against a Bulldogs pack that remains ferociously strong.

Josh Papalii v Tony Williams

Many an eye brow was raised when the Queensland State of Origin side was read out without the name of Josh Papalii included within it.

Papalii, a three time Maroons representative, was disappointed not to be included in Mal Meninga’s side however he has not let the setback erode his attitude.

The 23 year old has trained the house down throughout the week and is gearing up for a high quality performance against the Bulldogs to prove his doubters wrong.

Like Kasiano, Williams will be looked upon by Hasler to step up in the absence of Graham, Jackson and Klemmer. Astonishing to some, Williams played in the halves when Reynolds and Hodkinson were on Origin duty last year, so look for the former Australian representative to take on more of a ball-playing role in the absence of Hodkinson.

STAT ATTACK

Record against the Bulldogs:

In a total of 61 games against Canterbury, Canberra has won 26 games and lost on 35 occasions.

Bulldogs record at GIO Stadium:

In a total of 21 games played at GIO Stadium, Canterbury has won 9 games and lost on 12 occasions.

Last three encounters:

1.        Bulldogs defeated Raiders 22-14 at GIO Stadium in Round 15, 2014

2.        Bulldogs defeated Raiders 28-16 at GIO Stadium in Round 23, 2013

3.        Raiders defeated Bulldogs 34-6 at GIO Stadium in Round 25, 2012


HE SAID IT

Blake Austin: “We were fairly happy with what we did with the ball, but we had a look at our defence and we had too many one-on-one misses and that was a result of the weight of possession. We’re going to have to be better with our early contact in defence to deter the Bulldogs from getting the same sort of roll on.”  

CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Austin.

Shaun Fensom: “Every club has the depth to cover players out due to Origin selections and things like that. There’s 30 odd players playing and training each week so any team that loses players to Origin and then tries to use that as an excuse must not have much confidence in the players coming up.”

CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Fensom.

David Shillington: “I think that a few of our boys can consider themselves unlucky not to be playing in Origin 1, but we can take advantage of that now and attempt to climb up the ladder.”

CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Shillington.