NYC Match Preview: Raiders v Panthers
It’s crunch time for the Green Machine, four heavy losses in their past five matches have placed the Canberra Raiders Holden Cup side sitting precariously in 7th position. A loss in their final two matches could well mean they will miss the 2015 finals and their challenge won’t be any easier as they face the second placed Penrith Panthers in their last home game for the season on Monday.
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The last time Canberra came up against Penrith they suffered a heavy 64-8 belting, the side will need to put their recent defensive woes behind them if they are to get a win in their final home game of the season.
To add another hurdle to the equation stand in custodian at half back Tre Williams will be absent from the side to take on the Panthers to make way for the incumbent Dylan McGrath.
Whilst the game on Monday afternoon could either extend or conclude their season McGrath seemed up to the challenge and was looking forward to playing against the second best side in the competition.
“It feels good to be back in the side, I’ve had a couple of disappointing weeks but I’m looking forward to having a better performance this week.
“I’m both nervous and excited coming up against the Panthers, it’ll be a good challenge that I’ll be up for” McGrath said.
With the side dropping in their performances late in the season, Dylan McGrath said that the group was motivated in identifying and rectifying their issues which have seen them fall further down the ladder.
“We got together as a group to talk about what’s been going wrong and the areas we thought we had to work on.
“Obviously defence was a big part of that discussion, so we’ve been continuing to focus on that this week and hopefully we can sort out the problems for the game on Monday” Dylan said.
As the season does come to an end there are players within the Holden Cup side that wont be appearing next year. Whilst McGrath believes he might be one of those, he said he was looking forward to putting in a strong performance during the last home game for the 2015 season.
“It feels great to be playing the last home game of the season, I probably won’t be there next year and I’m looking forward to playing well in front of everyone for one last time” he said.
The Knights, Storm and the Bulldogs are all hot on the heels of the Raiders with them all 4 competition points or less behind the Green Machine. It would be devastating for the side to drop out of the top eight considering their impressive results in the middle of the year, which included knocking off the then top side the Brisbane Broncos.
If the Holden Cup side want to play finals football then they must at least come away with one win in their last two games. Beating the high flying Panthers at their last home game at GIO Stadium will go a long way to ensuring their position within the top eight, but will also provide the team the lift they desperately need to head into finals.