Raiders front-rower Frank-Paul Nuuausala believes it is up to him to lead the forwards around the park in the absence of Sia Soliola and Jeff Lima.
Nuuausala has a tough task ahead of him this weekend when the Raiders host one of the most imposing forward packs in the competition.
Led by New South Wales captain Paul Gallen and his Origin teammate Andrew Fifita, the Sharks big men will provide the Green Machine with a big test as they look to return to the winners circle this Sunday.
“It’s always a good test to see where we’re at,” said Nuuausala when asked about coming up against the Sharks pack.
“I thought we were pretty good against the Doggies and on Saturday we were disappointing, and we’re not going to use the five-day turnaround excuse. We just had to show up, and I think we just didn’t show up.”
Nuuausala will be joined in the Raiders line-up by two promising youngsters in Luke Bateman and Joseph Tapine, and the Kiwi international will take it upon himself to guide them against a menacing Cronulla-Sutherland outfit.
“I think it’s always been my responsibility to lead the way, off the field and on the field,” said the 2012 premiership winner.
“[It’s a] big loss to have Sia and Jeff [out injured], so everybody’s got to pick up the slack in the forward pack.
“Joey’s been pretty good and we didn’t see much of Bateman on the weekend – he played like fifteen minutes – it was pretty good for us so hopefully he can see more time this week."
Coach Ricky Stuart echoed the front-rower’s comments, saying that Queensland Under 20’s representative Bateman will play extended minutes this weekend.
“We’re starting to run dry in the front row,” said Stuart.
“Injuries are hurting us a little bit at the moment but fingers crossed that Paul [Vaughan] will be okay, but ‘Bato’ [Bateman] came on on the weekend and did a pretty good job. He didn’t get a lot of minutes, but he’ll certainly be getting more this weekend.”
Nuuausala hinted that a strong start against the Sharks is vital after a lackluster start made for a tough outing against Parramatta last weekend.
“We just didn’t turn up. [In] the first twenty minutes they blew us out of the park and we couldn’t respond fast enough. By the time we tried to play our footy it was too late, they were already 24 points ahead of us.
“I thought we were a bit disappointing in the middle, especially in defence. We didn’t aim up, and when it was our turn to run we didn’t run hard enough and didn’t lay a good platform for Austin and Sezer.”
With just three games remaining before the competition splits for the representative weekend, Nuuausala says the side are remaining focused on chalking up a win in front of the home fans this Sunday.
“We’ll take this game first. We’re not worried about the next two weeks. We just need to play well this week and repay the faith of the fans.”