The Canberra Raiders play the Manly Sea Eagles at GIO Stadium on Friday night as they attempt to win three matches in a row for the first time in over a year.
Raiders Coach Ricky Stuart is wary about facing a side that have had a week off, while the Raiders have had only four days to recover after playing the Bulldogs last Sunday.
“[Manly] will come down here very, very fresh and full of energy because they’ve had that break. We’ve had a very short turnaround and we failed after the last time we had a short turnaround so that’s why I’ve changed the team around a little bit and there won’t be any excuses," said Stuart.
"We’ve got to make sure we get to the game and play well because we know we’ll have our hands full tomorrow night.”
Although former Parramatta forward Junior Paulo has been training with the team this week, the club is waiting to hear if his contract will be registered in time.
“Junior [Paulo] has done what he has to do and we’ve done everything that we need to do in regards to getting his contract registered. So we’re just waiting now for the NRL to approve it,” said Stuart.
Despite a poor start against the Bulldogs, Raiders second-rower, Luke Bateman, said the team took plenty of confidence from last week’s match.
“I think we took a lot of confidence from that. Being down and knowing that we can come back from being down by 10 points will be massive in future games," said Bateman.
"Knowing if things are looking pretty bad for us we still have the confidence there to know that at the end of the game we can come back and end up winning it pretty well.”
Although five places separate the two sides on the ladder, Manly are only three points behind the Raiders. It's been a disappointing first half of the season for Manly, their first under new coach Trent Barrett. The side is starting to show glimpses of their potential though, as evidenced by a narrow loss to the ladder leading Cronulla Sharks in Round 11.
There are several changes to Ricky Stuart’s side; Brenko Lee replaces his cousin Edrick Lee on the wing, while Bateman comes in for the rested Shaun Fensom at lock. After scoring two tries against the Bulldogs, Joseph Tapine comes into the starting side and Paul Vaughan moves to the bench.
Clay Priest will sit on the pine instead of Jeff Lima, while Junior Paulo is named on an extended bench. Ricky Stuart will make a decision tomorrow as to whether Josh Papalii will play after he played Origin on Wednesday night.
There are two changes for Manly from the side that narrowly lost to Cronulla a fortnight ago. Steve Matai returns to the team after a stint on the sidelines with injury, while Apisai Koroisau comes back on the extended bench as a utility. There are doubts over Matai’s fitness as he returns from a neck injury. If he is deemed unfit, Matt Wright could come back into the side on the wing, forcing a backline reshuffle.
Dylan Walker and Nate Myles played in Origin last night, with both expected to start for Manly.
Brenko Lee v Tom Trbojevic
Brenko Lee comes into the starting side as a direct replacement for his cousin Edrick. The versatile outside back has already played two games for the Raiders this season, filling in admirably at right centre. If he is able to effectively link up with Wighton and Croker, he will play his part in a powerful backline in which all five players ran over 100 metres against the Bulldogs.
Facing up against Lee is youngster Tom Trbojevic. Touted as Brett Stewart’s successor at fullback for the Sea Eagles, Trbojevic has played all across the backline this season. With four tries to his name, the youngster is the leading try scorer for Manly in 2016.
Joseph Tapine v Darcy Lussick
Tapine hadn’t scored for the Raiders until last Sunday. Now he has two tries to his account. The 22-year-old was too strong for the Bulldogs defence last Sunday, as he crashed through the line to score twice. After starting the season playing for the Mounties, his form has impressed Stuart who has elevated him to the starting lineup.
Since returning to the Sea Eagles this season after a three-year stint at the Eels, Lussick has become an important player under Trent Barrett. After playing minimal minutes early in the season, Lussick had one of his best games three weeks ago against the Broncos, carrying the ball 112 metres.
Kurt Baptiste v Api Koroisau
Losing 20-12 with 20 minutes to go against the Bulldogs, Baptiste changed the game for the Green Machine. Bringing energy and spark to the attack, Baptiste took over dummy half duties allowing Hodgson a roaming role in the side as the Raiders romped to a 32-20 win.
Koroisau has been in a direct battle with Matt Parcell for the Manly number 9 jersey and will be looking to stake his claim this Friday. Koroisau has filled in at halfback already this season and particularly impressed when filling in for Cherry-Evans at halfback.
The Raiders have played the Sea Eagles on 49 occasions having won 18, lost 30 and drawn once.
At GIO Stadium, the sides have played 13 times with the Raiders having won five and lost eight.
Last three encounters:
1. Sea Eagles defeated Raiders 26-24 at GIO Stadium, Round 23, 2015
2. Raiders defeated Sea Eagles 29-16 at Lavington Sports Ground, Round 5, 2015
3. Sea Eagles defeated Raiders 54-18 at Brookvale Oval, Round 8, 2014
HE SAID IT
Joe Tapine: “I was anxious coming down here but the boys welcomed me real good. I fit in real good with all the boys and they’re an easy bunch to get along with. I think it will be easy for Junior when he comes down as well.”
CLICK HERE to watch the full interview with Tapine.
Joey Leilua: “If you don’t have a tight group, you’re not going to win games. I think that’s what it comes down to with this team, everyone’s tight not just us two [Leilua and Rapana]. We’re tight with everyone else and that’s what makes a great team and we’ve got one here.”
CLICK HERE to watch the full interview with Leilua and Rapana.
Ricky Stuart: “We will make a decision on [Papalii] tomorrow morning. He played a fair few minutes in the middle last night, as you could see it was a fairly brutal game so I’ll see how he pulls up tomorrow morning.”
CLICK HERE to watch Ricky Stuart talk about Round 13.
Luke Bateman: “I feel more and more comfortable being out there and playing in the NRL. It’s been a bit of a building season for me and the experience has been great.”