NRL Match Preview: Raiders v Sharks
The Raiders are back at GIO Stadium on Sunday afternoon as they aim to avenge last week’s loss to the Eels.
After playing two away games within five days, the Raiders have had a week to prepare for Sunday’s match against the Cronulla Sharks.
Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson, who is named in the squad despite a thumb injury, is looking forward to the chance to bounce back with a win against Cronulla.
“We were way off where we want to be as a team [against Parramatta],” said Hodgson.
“We’ve got to fix that up this week and we really need to start putting consistent performances together.”
Hodgson said he received the injury after an elbow struck the base of his thumb, causing it to swell rapidly. Despite being named to play, Hodgson isn’t sure if he will be able to play this Sunday.
“All the movement is pretty good, thankfully there’s no break or anything like that but it's still pretty sore at the moment so I’m just going to have to see how it settles down, see how it pulls up for the weekend,” said Hodgson.
With Hodgson in doubt, Kurt Baptiste is a chance of starting on Sunday. Baptiste said the team needs to improve from last weekend’s performance if they are to beat the Sharks.
“Across the board, we were bad in attack and bad in defense. [It’s important to make] sure we are switched on this week ready for the Sharks because that’s going to be another tough game for us.”
The Sharks have started the season strongly and are sitting 4th on the ladder on the back of three consecutive wins.
The Gold Coast Titans almost knocked off the Sharks last weekend, in a bruising encounter that saw Greg Bird from the Titans suspended.
Ricky Stuart has named the same team that took to the field against Parramatta. Josh Hodgson and Paul Vaughan make the side despite picking up minor injuries against the Eels. Vaughan will undergo fitness tests in the coming days on his injured ankle, before a decision is made on whether he will play.
The Sharks have one change from the side that defeated the Titans last weekend. The suspended Luke Lewis makes way for Jason Bukuya, who is returning from a finger injury.
Jack Wighton v Ben Barba
The Raiders fullback didn’t have his best game against the Eels but still managed to help produce the most magical moment of the game. An over-the-shoulder, no-look pass to Jordan Rapana helped produce a spectacular try for Blake Austin. With three try assists already this season, the Raiders will continue to look for Wighton to create chances in attack.
Barba, the 2012 Dally M medalist has had a lean patch in recent years. Scoring four tries already this season, Barba looks to be playing at a similar level that secured him the most prestigious individual award in the NRL.
Jarrod Croker v Jack Bird
The Raiders captain has started the season strongly. After six rounds of the competition, Croker is the leading points scorer in the NRL with four tries and 15 conversions. Croker was at his best two weeks ago against the Bulldogs scoring 18 points. His attacking threat and improved defense make the captain a key player.
The 2015 Dally M rookie of the year has moved to the centers this year but still remains a dangerous player. His running game impressed most spectators when he played at five-eighth last year. Despite not having as much time on the ball this year, Bird’s kicking ability and renowned running game is a huge threat on the Sharks’ right edge.
Shaun Fensom v Paul Gallen
The battle of the two locks is a battle of contrasting styles. Fensom the tackle machine v Gallen the meter eater. In the opening six rounds, Fensom has averaged 39 tackles per game. An impressive feat considering he left the field with concussion in the opening minute of the win against the Roosters. Up against a talented Sharks outfit, Fensom’s defensive efforts will be crucial.
After missing some of the earlier rounds, NSW Blues captain Gallen has returned for the Sharks. So far this season Gallen is averaging almost 140 meters per game. He also is averaging close to two offloads per game so the Raiders defense will need to be alert against Cronulla’s captain, especially after the Eels caused havoc with effective offloads against the Raiders last weekend.
Record against the Sharks: In a total of 64 matches against the Sharks, the Raiders have won 30 and lost 34.
Sharks record at GIO Stadium: The Sharks have played at GIO Stadium Stadium on 24 occasions, winning 10 and losing 14.
Last 3 encounters:
Sharks defeated Raiders 21-20 at GIO Stadium, Round 19 2015
Raiders defeated Sharks 24-20 at Remondis Stadium, Round 1 2015
Raiders defeated Sharks 22-12 at Remondis Stadium, Round 24 2014
HE SAID IT
Luke Bateman: "You always want to play more minutes. I'm happy doing my part for the team. I'm not too worried about minutes, but the more I get I'm obviously going to be happier about it."
CLICK HERE for the full interview with Bateman.
Ricky Stuart: "Injuries are hurting us at the moment. We will get a bit of training under our belt this week, and try and eradicate a few errors we had last week."
CLICK HERE for the full interview with Stuart.