Canberra Raiders v Wests Tigers
Monday August 10, 7:00pm, GIO Stadium
CLICK HERE to purchase tickets!
Coverage: Foxsports 1
Referees: Jared Maxwell and Henry Perenara
Video Referees: Steve Chiddy and Luke Phillips
Hit by injuries, suspensions and opposing a rejuvenated opponent high on confidence following a victory over one of the competition’s powerhouses, the Raiders face many hurdles heading into their crucial Round 22 fixture against the Wests Tigers on Monday night at GIO Stadium.
But there can be no excuses for the mighty Green Machine as it is do-or-die from now on as the side aims to ramp up their intensity for their charge towards the finals.
Currently situated in 10th place on the ladder, the Raiders have five games left to snare a position in the top eight for the semi-finals.
A win this Monday over the Tigers will potentially see Canberra reclaim their spot in the top eight, however a loss may see the Raiders lose pace with the other semi-finals aspirants.
Giving the side confidence is their previous victory over the Tigers earlier this year in Round 7; in what was the greatest comeback in Raiders history.
CLICK HERE to see the Round 7 Match Highlights.
“I think that win helped kick-start our season and hopefully another win over the Tigers this time around will kick-start our charge towards the semi-finals,” Shannon Boyd said.
“It was a good comeback over the Tigers back in Round 7 but hopefully we can start the match a lot better this time around. That will be a big focus for us this week.”
Wests were terrific on Friday night, disposing of a quality Melbourne outfit 34-16 at Leichhardt Oval, which saw the Tigers snap a five game losing streak.
Whilst the 15th placed Tigers haven’t enjoyed the best season, the club can head into the match quietly confident given their superior recent record over the Raiders.
Wests have defeated Canberra seven times in their past 10 meetings, and three out of the past four times at GIO Stadium.
“They’re coming off a good win over the Storm and we’ve lost some key players so it will be a tough game but we will be ready,” Boyd said. “We want to play semi-finals footy and to do that we really need to knuckle down immediately and can’t be caught up in past records or form. This is a must-win game for us.”
As mentioned at the start of the preview, injuries and suspensions have forced several changes to Canberra’s line-up.
Unfortunately, rugged back-rower Sia Soliola will be sidelined for the remainder of the season after fracturing his cheekbone in the loss to the Cowboys last weekend, whilst classy hooker Josh Hodgson will miss 1-2 weeks with an ankle injury.
Soliola’s place in the starting team will be filled by Jarrad Kennedy whilst the promising Mitch Barnett will make his NRL debut from the interchange bench. The experienced Glen Buttriss will replace Hodgson in the starting team.
Edrick Lee will also be an absentee on Monday night after being suspended for a week for tripping. He will be replaced by Sisa Waqa who returns from injury.
CLICK HERE to see the Team List!
With Canberra’s season on the line, fans are urged to come out in droves to support the Green Machine’s march towards the finals as well as celebrating the milestones of David Shillington (200th NRL game) and Josh Papalii (100th NRL game).
Jack Wighton v James Tedesco
The individual battle between the two opposing fullbacks undoubtedly brings together two of the brightest young talents in the game.
Tedesco has enjoyed a tremendous season in 2015 with 14 tries registered and averaging 151 metres per game. His performance against the Storm last week, which featured two tries, two try assists and two line breaks, demonstrated his eye-catching form and will have plenty of Raiders fans nervous.
The Tigers custodian’s awkward running style makes him incredibly hard to tackle, which is why Tedesco leads the competition in tackle breaks with 135 to date.
Whist Wighton’s numbers are inferior compared to that of Tedesco’s, with half his tries scored and 11 metres below in average running metres, that is due to the fact that this is the Country Origin representative's first full season of playing fullback.
Despite his inexperience in the number one jersey, the fact remains that Wighton is one of the most naturally talented players in the competition and a highly instrumental player to Canberra’s cause. Wighton was arguably the Raiders best player last week with a fine try, two try assists and a slashing line break against the Cowboys.
Shannon Boyd v Aaron Woods
Down 22-0 after 27 minutes, it was Boyd who initiated the Raiders comeback in Round 7 with a barnstorming try where he brushed aside New South Wales and Australian bookend Woods like he was an under 8’s player, albeit a very large under 8’s player.
Woods was filthy on himself for his uncharacteristic miss and will no doubt be fired up for revenge on Monday night.
The Balmain junior is one of the premier front-rowers in the game with an average of 178 metres and 31 tackles per game.
Boyd on the other hand is in just his second full season of first grade but his blockbusting performances in the middle of the field have certainly caught the attention of opposition coaches and the props themselves.
The big-bodied larrikin is a player on the rise and will revel in the challenge of taking on Woods.
Kurt Baptiste v Robbie Farah
There is no doubting that the loss of Hodgson will leave a huge void in Canberra’s line-up but Baptiste is striving to lift his game in the Englishmen's absence and his team mates have faith in the electric rake.
“Losing Hodgo is a big loss but Kurt is really good player and I’m confident that he will step up and play even better with some more minutes,” Boyd said. “I love running off Kurt one pass off the ruck, he really gets you on the front foot and into gaps, plus he’s lightning off the mark if you can get him a quick play the ball.”
Although Baptiste normally draws praise for his creative ball-play and speed out of dummy half, as evidenced by his late try against the Cowboys, he is severely underrated in defence. Despite his diminutive frame, Baptiste is a tenacious defender and compiled 30 tackles in just 37 minutes last week once Hodgson left the field.
With an in-experienced halves combination, Farah will again be pivotal for the Tigers in regards to creativity, direction and leadership. The NSW Origin hooker is still as crafty as ever with the ball in hand and is a rock in the centre of the field defensively, averaging 41 tackles per game.
Record against the Tigers:
In a total of 29 games against Wests, Canberra has won 12 games and lost on 17 occasions.
Tigers record at GIO Stadium:
In a total of 15 games played at GIO Stadium, Wests has won on eight games and lost on seven occasions.
Last three encounters:
1. Raiders defeated the Tigers 30-22 at Leichhardt Oval in Round 7, 2015
2. Raiders defeated Tigers 27-12 at GIO Stadium in Round 25, 2014
3. Tigers defeated Raiders 19-18 at Campbelltown Stadium in Round 16, 2014
HE SAID IT
Shannon Boyd: “We’ve got to concentrate on putting together an 80 minute performance. It was a hard loss to take after being up 18-0 over such a quality opponent. We’ve got to learn from it because we can’t afford to drop anymore games.”
CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Boyd.
Josh Papalii: “I’ve said it before in a few articles, that I’d love to stay at the Raiders for life but that obviously depends on how I’m playing footy and how the club is going.”
CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Papalii.
David Shillington: “When I first started out I didn’t think that I’d play this many games but I’m proud of my achievement and am hoping to be celebrating the milestone with a win.”
CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Shillington.