Canberra Raiders v Parramatta Eels
Sunday September 6, 2:00pm, Pirtek Stadium
CLICK HERE to purchase tickets!
Coverage: Foxsports 1
Referees: Adam Devcich and Gavin Badger
Video Referees: Shayne Hayne and Daniel Irvine
Whilst the curtain is prematurely closing on the Canberra Raiders’ 2015 season with the side unable to make the semi-finals, the Green Machine is certainly preparing to go out with a bang when they face the Parramatta Eels at Pirtek Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Canberra’s goal for this season was to make the semi-finals and although they fell painfully short, the Raiders are aiming to head into next season with momentum on the back of two consecutive wins.
“We’re disappointed that we won’t be playing in the semi-finals but we still want to finish the year off strongly with a few consecutive wins just like we did last year,” Paul Vaughan said.
“It’s very important to go into pre-season and the start of the 2016 season with a bit of momentum built up from the previous year.
“It’s also a bit of a pride thing; you want to do your best every time you run out onto the field and make your fans proud. Although we can’t make the semi-finals, there’s still plenty to play for.”
The Raiders were thoroughly impressive in their 34-18 victory over the Penrith Panthers at GIO Stadium in Round 25
With the departing David Shillington leading from the front, the Raiders pack completely dominated the Panthers forwards which enabled the attacking talents of Jarrod Croker, Edrick Lee and Sisa Waqa to shine brightly in the backline.
CLICK HERE to watch the Match Highlights from Round 25.
Unfortunately, there have been several forced changes to the Raiders line-up for Sunday’s match against the Eels.
Jack Wighton has accepted the early guilty plea for a grade two careless high tackle charge and will miss the final game of the season with a one game suspension, which sees Sisa Waqa shifted to fullback and Jordan Rapana return from suspension to take his place on the wing.
Blake Austin will also be absent following a season ending shoulder injury sustained in last week's win over the Panthers. Mitch Cornish has been recalled to the team's line-up for the first time since Round 11 to replace Austin at five-eighth.
CLICK HERE to see the NRL Team List.
Whilst both sides will be looking to finish the year off with a win, 11th placed Parramatta also has payback on their minds after Canberra defeated the Eels twice at the end of 2014 to crush their semi-finals ambitions.
“We’re definitely due for a bit of payback,” Eels back-rower Tepai Moeroa. “They kept us out of the eight last year, so hopefully we can just get this one win over them and have the last laugh.
“It was our first game at home for a few weeks [last Round against the Sharks], and it was disappointing not to come away with the win, so we’ll want to change that also.”
In addition to finishing the season off on a positive note, the Raiders will also be looking to farewell departing players David Shillington and Mitch Cornish in style.
Jarrod Croker v Will Hopoate
As it stands, Croker is the competition’s leading points scorer with 220 points accumulated throughout 2015.
Although the accomplishment of holding aloft the NRL’s top point scorer trophy at the Dally M’s will be far from Croker’s immediate thoughts on Sunday afternoon, the fact remains that the final match of the season is of vital importance to the Raiders Captain’s standing.
Roosters five-eighth James Maloney is just four points below Croker on 216 points so the outcome of both teams matches this week will be crucial to who comes out on top.
Aside from his radar-like goal kicking, Croker’s performance in general play and leadership will be pivotal to victory for the Raiders.
As will Hopoate’s for the Eels. Despite being down on form of late, Hopoate, who averages 141 metres per match, remains a class player and will want to finish the year off on a positive note.
Sisa Waqa v Semi Radrada
Despite not being situated directly opposite each other, the battle between these two flying Fijians will be as entertaining as they come.
Radrada has been arguably the NRL’s best winger in 2015 with a superb breakthrough season which has seen him net 22 tries and break the line on 22 occasions.
Furthermore, Radrada also has a high work-rate in general play averaging 167 metres per game.
Following Wighton’s suspension, Waqa is set to receive more involvement on Sunday with his selection at fullback.
Waqa is one of the game’s most dangerous ball runners as evidenced by his try against the Panthers last round and the more ball he receives, the more dangerous he will be. Simple mathematics, right?
CLICK HERE to see Waqa’s try.
Waqa is also one of the NRL’s best exponents of the offload, ranking sixth in the competition after promoting the ball on 38 occasions in 2015.
Josh Papalii v Tepai Moeroa
The sheer physicality that Papalii and Moeroa play with is what endears them so much to their respective fans and what makes them such damaging players for their clubs.
Both players tip the scales at over 110kg and stand at over 180cm so fans can expect plenty of brutal collisions as these two young tyros collide on Sunday afternoon.
After a slow start to the year, Papalii has delivered a much improved second half of the year which has seen him recapture his prized Queensland Origin jersey and average 97 metres and 28 tackles in each of his 23 appearances for the year.
Moeroa is considerably younger than Papalii at just 19 years of age but there is no doubting his enormous potential.
After debuting in 2014, the Junior Kangaroos representative has played in 18 games this year averaging 71 metres and 27 hard-hitting tackles.
Record against the Eels:
In a total of 51 games against Parramatta, Canberra has won 25 games and lost on 26 occasions.
Raiders record at Pirtek Stadium:
In a total of 20 games played at Pirtek Stadium, Canberra has won just 7 games and lost on 13 occasions.
Last three encounters:
1. Raiders defeated Eels 33-20 at GIO Stadium in Round 26, 2014
2. Eels defeated Raiders 18-10 at TIO Stadium, Darwin in Round 22, 2014
3. Raiders defeated Eels 14-0 at GIO Stadium in Round 19, 2013
HE SAID IT
Blake Austin: “It’s not the way anyone wants to end their season but it’s probably the best time of the year to do it really. I will now have all pre-season to get my shoulder right and I’ll be ready for Round 1.”
CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Austin.
Brenko Lee: “Playing in the NRL with Edrick was a dream come true. Now I have to keep working hard on my game and on my fitness to make sure that I’m in the team in 2016.”
CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Lee.
Paul Vaughan: “Shillo has been a really good player for us for a number of years and is a strong leader for us as well. He will be a big loss but there are a couple of young guys here that will be able to stand up next year, including myself.”
CLICK HERE to see the full interview with Vaughan.