CANBERRA RAIDERS V NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
SATURDAY JUNE 20, 10.40AM, GIO STADIUM
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After attending school at renowned rugby league nursery Kirwan State High School in Townsville, Raiders Holden Cup fullback Chevi Ellis knows more than most just how dangerous the second placed Cowboys will be this Saturday, having faced several of the team’s stars at school.
Whilst Ellis’ rugby league career has taken him south from North Queensland, via the Sydney Roosters and now at the Raiders, he maintains contact with many of the Cowboys players and is thoroughly looking forward to the challenge ahead on Saturday.
The Cowboys have proven to be one of the top teams in the NYC this year and are currently on a three match winning streak.
The game will be a tough encounter regardless, but for Ellis, the game will be one of his most memorable for the year, if not his career, and it is due to a friend he made during his time at Kirwan.
“I did year 11 and 12 at Kirwin so I know quite a lot of the players in this team after playing with and against them at school and in the North Queensland junior rep teams,” Ellis said.
“This game means a lot to me. It’s always good playing against your home team but this game will be a bit more special for me. One of the boys that used to play in this team, Regan Greive, was one of my best mates at school and he passed away at the start of the year. This game is going to be amazing for me because I’m going to dedicate it to Regan.
“Most of these boys are like brothers to me and it’s always good to play against your brothers. When I went up to the funeral the whole Cowboys squad was there in their club uniform and I can remember thinking then how I couldn’t wait to play the Cowboys this year in dedication to Regan.
“Regan’s mum will be watching this game because she told me that she’s been waiting to watch me play against the Cowboys. I can’t wait.
“I’ll have his name written on my strapping tape and a quote from his last Facebook post – “Keep on keeping on.”
The Cowboys team is littered with stars however there are three that the Raiders must especially look out for in winger Gideon Mosby, halfback Cooper Bambling and interchange forward Viliame Kikau.
“I’m not surprised at how well they’re going, those players that I played against are very good players,” Ellis said. “Gideon is lightning quick and Cooper is a smart halfback with a good running and kicking game; they’re probably the two standouts that I know of but I’ve also heard good things about that Viliame Kikau.”
Mosby has lit up the Holden Cup in 2015 and has emerged as a front-runner to be named NYC Winger of the Year. Mosby is the competition’s top try scorer after scoring an incredible 19 tries in his 13 appearances, and also leads the competition in line breaks with 17 for the year. To top off these eye-catching statistics, Mosby also averages 148 metres per game and is coming off a four-try haul in the Cowboys' 54-6 victory over the Parramatta Eels.
Bambling is North Queensland’s on-field general and has previously captained Queensland Under 15’s and Under 18’s. The tenacious halfback has been touted by Cowboys Football Manager Peter Parr as the man to take over from Jonathon Thurston when he hangs up the boots.
“He is in line to take over from Thurston, and he is going to be good enough,” Parr said. “Thurston competes and Bambling competes until the cows come home…he is one of the best competitors I have seen.”
Bambling has 12 line break assists for the year and his combination with Mosby and Kikau must be watched carefully by the Raiders defensive structure. Kikau leads the competition in tackle breaks with 84 for the year and is second in line breaks with 15 behind Mosby.
The Green Machine is coming 7th on the ladder and the side will be looking to continue their fine home record, with the side having won their last five matches at GIO Stadium.
In team changes, Luke Bateman will miss this weekend’s match as he will serve a one match suspension. Bateman’s absence sees Tevita Pangai Junior starting at lock and Brett Solomon returning to the starting front row.
Thomas Cronan comes back into the side on the wing, whilst Kalani Going will get an opportunity to start in the second row this weekend. Sione Afemui and Tevita Aroha-Tuinauvai are the new faces to the Raiders bench this weekend.
CLICK HERE to see the full NYC Team List.