Rapana grateful for starting shot
The Raiders 30-22 opening round win over the Panthers came at a cost, with both Blake Austin and star recruit Aidan Sezer lost to injury for the next 4-6 weeks.
Jordan Rapana, who featured on the wing against the Panthers, says the club have the strength in depth to cover the loss of the star halves pairing.
“It’s very disappointing to lose both Aidan and Austo (Blake Austin), but I guess the positive to that is we’ve got a lot of depth there, so I’m sure Ricky will have no trouble playing our back-up halves,” he said.
After featuring in 20 first grade matches in 2015, Rapana was tipped to begin this season in NSW Cup, with Sisa Waqa and Edrick Lee taking on the club’s starting wing positions.
But coach Ricky Stuart pulled somewhat of a selection surprise in round one, with Rapana named to start against Penrith, and the winger believes it’s his reward for getting through a brutal pre-season.
“I was really grateful to get that shot, being in the starting line up in round one,” Rapana said.
“This has been one of the toughest pre-seasons I’ve had, so I guess it was a good show of faith from the coaching staff giving me that opportunity.”
With the ability to also play at fullback, Rapana is ready to shift positions if further squad reshuffles are needed.
“Whatever Ricky decides to do, I’m ready to play anywhere,” Rapana said.
“There’s a lot of depth in our backline, Jacko (Wighton) is capable of playing in the halves and Sisa can also come in.”
Williams was actually slated to start at five eighth in round one, with Austin to feature off the interchange bench, before being a late withdrawal from the side due to illness.
Williams will no doubt be keen to get his 2016 season off the ground this weekend against the Roosters, and Rapana believes the playmaker is up to the challenge of stepping into the breach vacated by Austin and Sezer.
“Sammy’s really good at organising the team and getting us around the park,” Rapana said.
With the side against the Roosters now set, Rapana believes the Raiders will take great confidence out of their opening round win – a win they might not have come away with in 2015, as they conspired to lose six home games by a total of only 12 points.
“You always want to hit the ground running and getting that first win definitely builds our confidence going into this week,” Rapana said.
“I think we’ve improved a lot since last season, and holding the Panthers out in those last five minutes showed that we’re a different team to what we were last year, psychologically that was a big boost for us.”
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