Five Things: Raiders v Sharks
Finals footy is back in Canberra and it's going to be a blockbuster qualifying final between the Raiders and Sharks on Saturday at GIO Stadium.
Read on for the five things we can't wait to see as the green machine look to make it 11 straight wins and book their spot in the preliminary finals.
Free to Play
Not Guilty. Those two words caused Raiders fans across the nation to rejoice last night. Facing a possible four-week ban, Jack Wighton was cleared at the NRL judiciary of a shoulder charge and is free to play on Saturday.
Wighton has been a key cog in the Raiders ten-match winning streak, and a finals series without him would have been a huge blow.
The Raiders are further boosted by the return of 123kg wrecking ball Junior Paulo to the team. Paulo has missed the past two matches with a lower back injury. Linking up with man-mountain Shannon Boyd in the front row on Saturday, look for the Raiders big boys to try and blow the Sharks off the park in the first 20 minutes.
Two Huge Games
What a day of rugby league this Saturday is going to be for the nation’s capital, with both the Raiders’ NRL and NYC sides lining up in qualifying finals.
The NRL side will face off against the Sharks, whom they narrowly edged out to cement second place and the coveted home final, whilst the NYC side come up against the fifth placed Roosters.
Achieving a finals appearance seemed nigh on impossible for the Raiders U20's after six straight losses midway through the season. A string of strong results in the run home to the finals showed Brett White's boys can match it with anyone in the competition and can cause serious damage in the finals series. NYC kicks off at 2.55pm on Saturday so make sure you arrive early to cheer on the future Raiders stars!
The Raiders and Sharks last met in the finals back in 2012, when the Raiders stormed home to crush the Sharks 34-16 at GIO Stadium.
Josh Papalii and Sam Williams are the only remaining Raiders players who crossed the line in that match, though Jarrod Croker managed three conversions with the boot.
Jack Wighton is the only other lasting player from the 2012 season, though he missed the final through injury
With Williams lining up again in place of the injured Blake Austin, history is on the Raider’s side. Williams earned himself man-of-the-match honours back in 2012, playing a hand in multiple tries whilst scoring one himself.
Viking Clap Returns
There are not many things that can simultaneously unite a crowd, but the round 24 Viking Clap against the Eels did just that. Almost 19,000 fans came together to welcome the home side on, and looking at the amount of attention the clap got, it’s fair to say it was an immense success.
This Saturday the club will do it again, in hope that the crowd can inspire the side to a maiden preliminary-final appearance. Make sure you're in your seats and ready to go just prior to kick-off!
Equaling the Record
A win against the Sharks will level the Raiders’ greatest ever win record of 11 games straight, set in the 1989/90 and 1994/95 seasons.
It’s a promising prospect that the current crop are modelling the Raiders of old, but they’ll have a tough task ahead of them on Saturday against the dangerous Sharks.
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