CANBERRA RAIDERS V GOLD COAST TITANS
SUNDAY AUGUST 23, 11.45AM, CBUS SUPER STADIUM
The Canberra Raiders Holden Cup side is sitting precariously at 6th position heading into the last three rounds of the season but if the team can move on from a tough couple of weeks a finals berth is waiting for the young Green Machine, and if they do, Coach Mick Mantelli believes they can go deep into the finals this year.
Canberra’s last three rounds consist of the Gold Coast Titans away, then competition leaders the Penrith Panthers at home and to finish the regular season with the Parramatta Eels at Pirtek Stadium.
If they are to consolidate their spot in the top eight, or potentially sneak into the top four, then fixing their defence will be crucial in the Raiders achieving their end of season goals.
On their day, Canberra has proven that they can beat any team in the competition, however the last four games have seen the Raiders deliver a mixed bag of form, with flimsy defence proving their undoing in three of the four games.
It’s been tough going for the young Raiders outfit conceding 222 points in the past four weeks, however Mantelli believes the side can turn their fortunes of late around and make a strong run into finals and compete with sides like the table topping Panthers.
“It’s been a long season for the boys, we have a lot of young kids that are just learning to play at this level so we are working on their defensive principles and technique,” Mantelli said. “We just need to keep working.
“I think we’re a pretty good chance at winning the last three games and when it comes to the Panthers we just need to compete against them.
“We just need to get into a grind with them, which is probably something most teams haven’t done so far this season. We should get into a tussle with them and see how good we are.”
The side has been struck with key injuries throughout the season and Mantelli said it has hindered their ability to perform at the team's true potential.
“For a lot of the season we’ve been missing Tevita Pangai-Junior, Luke Bateman, Brenko Lee as well as Andrew Heffernan and Lachlan Croker, who are all our experienced players.
“I’d say we’re a pretty young team at the moment, we are virtually an under 18’s side with a couple of 19 year olds, so losing those players does put a little pressure on us.”
Fortunately for the Raiders, Pangai Junior returns from injury however he will be directly swapped in for Bateman who has been elevated to the NRL side.
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The Titans are coming 14th on the ladder however they are coming off an impressive 32-30 win over the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs last weekend.
Canberra must keep an eye out for winger Gold Coast Greg Lelesiuao who scored a hat-trick of tries in the win over the Bulldogs.
Whilst the match against the Panthers a fortnight away will be a good barometer as to where the side ranks amongst the potential top four sides, the Raiders cannot begin to contemplate that comparison unless they defeat the Titans this Sunday at CBUS Super Stadium.