The Canberra Raiders are set to hunt their fourth win on the trot when they play host to the Manly Sea Eagles at GIO Stadium on Friday night.
Here are five hot talking points ahead of the exciting clash.
Austin’s 50th Raiders Game
The Raiders have done a superb this season of celebrating player milestones in winning ways. They made no mistake in making centre Joey Leilua’s 150th NRL appearance one to cherish in railroading over the Gold Coast Titans and, as recently as on Saturday evening, they stamped fullback Jack Wighton’s 100th NRL game with a gritty victory over the New Zealand Warriors. When Ricky Stuart’s men welcome Manly they will be looking to continue this knack to make five-eighth Blake Austin’s 50th game in green one to savour.
The New South Wales hopeful has become a crucial cog in the Raiders’ wheel since joining the Green Machine in 2015, combining an adroit passing game with classy footwork on the Raiders’ potent right edge. These assets have shone through in 2017 to help the Raiders recover from a rocky start to the season to burrow their way into fifth on the ladder and into second place for points scored.
Austin was nursing a broken hand when the Raiders last crossed swords with the Sea Eagles. However, Canberra charged to a 30-18 win when the 26-year-old last met Manly in Round 13 of last season. Be there as the Raiders eye another win over Daly Cherry-Evans and friends in Austin’s milestone match.
Half-time Viking Clap
If you plan on ducking out for a quick bite to eat at half-time on Friday evening, be sure to be back for the Viking Clap when the Raiders run out for the second stanza. That’s right, Raiders fans: the ever-popular Viking Clap is set to explode when Jarrod Croker leads the troops out for the second half. That is because an ANZAC Day ceremony will take place at 5:45pm, 15 minutes before kick-off. Please respect the ANZAC ceremony by not attempting to start a Viking Clap before the kick-off or at the start of the game.
In fantastic news for Raiders fan, the 6:00pm kick-off should offer you an excuse to grab an early-mark from work on Friday evening. Keeping this in mind will be vital given the heavy rush-hour traffic you could be faced with on the way to the game.
With a side streaked with the names Austin, Leilua, Rapana, Papalii and more, comes every chance the men in green will shoot out of the blocks, a spectacle no Raiders fan wants to miss. Keep a little extra time up your sleeve to ensure you’re in the house for the ANZAC ceremony.
Paulo’s Hit-Up on Buhrer
The Raiders met the Sea Eagles in Canberra in Round 13 last year, but a Junior Paulo hit-up on Jamie Buhrer went close to catapulting the second-rower back to Brookvale. With the Green Machine leading 30-6 in the 55th minute, the man mountain prop let loose on a barnstorming run off a kick-off to unleash arguably the biggest hit-up of 2016 in his debut Raiders game. So hard did Paulo hit Buhrer it prompted one of the commentators to bellow, “Running like a semi-trailer down the Hume Highway!”
The Samoan international continued his stunning start to the season on the weekend in churning out a game-high 185 metres. Expect Paulo to unload with a similarly impressive display on Friday. He might even lay another bone-crunching hit.
Battle of the Fullbacks: Wighton v Trbojevic
One of Friday’s most mouth-watering on-field battles fares as the battle of the Number 1s, the Raiders’ Wighton versus Manly’s Tom Trbojevic.
Known as Turbo Tom, the Sea Eagles’ fullback has reminded the masses in the early stages of 2017 of why so much hype surrounds him. Seven rounds into the season, the 20-year-old sits firmly entrenched in the competiton’s top five for line-breaks, all runs and all run metres, a fact that screams “gun” like the Raiders’ song screams “We’re bad ‘n’ mean”.
Wighton is without a doubt one of the Raiders’ baddest and meanest. He had a quieter outing in his 100th NRL appearance on Saturday, but reminded everyone of his scintillating best the week prior in the Raider’s thrashing of the Titans. The Country Origin representative garnered 177 metres and dotted down for one of the visitors’ eight four-pointers, a purely solo effort in which he beat two defenders to pierce through a feeble right-edge defence.