In the Mix: Raiders v Eels
With Elliott Whitehead suspended and Josh Hodgson under an injury cloud, Raiders coach Ricky Stuart will have to make a couple of difficult team selection decisions this week ahead of Saturday's crucial match against the Parramatta Eels.
The makeup of the team remains a mystery to us here at raiders.com.au, but we've explored some of questions and possibilities that will need to be answered tomorrow (Tuesday) at 4pm when the Raiders team for Saturday's game is named.
Elliott Whitehead's one-week suspension means the Raiders forward pack will again undergo a reshuffle this week. Joe Tapine's return from injury pushed Dave Taylor back to Mounties in round four, but it looks likely the Coal Train will be back in Green Machine colours on Saturday. Other possibilities to come into the forward pack include Jeff Lima, Dunamis Lui and Scott Sorensen.
Sia Soliola is the likely candidate to take over Whitehead's edge position, but Taylor and Sorensen are also capable of slotting in.
It will also be interesting to see who starts at lock for the Raiders on Saturday, with Clay Priest pushing Luke Bateman back to the bench for the Broncos match.
They don't come much tougher than Josh Hodgson, as he proved last year by defying the odds to make a comeback from an ankle injury to help secure the Raiders a semi-final victory over the Panthers.
Hodgson left the field early in the second half against the Broncos and didn't return to the fold. Raiders coach Ricky Stuart commented in the post-match press conference that he wouldn't risk Hodgson so early in the season if he isn't fully fit.
"It's early in the season, we won't risk Josh next week if he needs a week or so off, he's too important to the team," Stuart said following the Broncos match.
Adam Clydsdale impressed at hooker when Hodgson left the field, and he is the obvious choice to take over starting duties if Hodgson is unavailable. The bench choice then becomes tricky, with English utility Jordan Turner looking like the front-runner. Turner has been playing in the halves for Mounties to start the season, but could do a solid job at hooker if needed. His halves partner at Mounties, Lachlan Croker, could also be a possibility for inclusion.
Ricky could also opt to go for another forward on the bench, therefore making two spots available for the likes of Taylor, Lui, Lima, Sorensen and Makahesi Makatoa.
Jordan Turner in action for the Raiders at the Auckland Nines
Stability for the Blue and Gold
With no major injuries or charges to come out of their loss to the Sharks in round four, the Parramatta Eels look set to field a similar 17 again on Saturday. Backrower Tepai Moeroa will be available for selection after serving a one-game suspension for a shoulder charge.