The Canberra Raiders will play at home this week for the first time since Round 12 in a crucial clash with the Brisbane Broncos.
Here are five of the biggest talking points ahead of Saturday’s game.
1. Start of big run of home games
Saturday’s game will be the first of four consecutive home games for the Green Machine and the first since the Raiders’ gritty eight-point win over the Roosters last month.
The Raiders have spent the majority of 2017 on the road and in doing so have suffered defeat in a number of tight contests. They have lost by four points or less away from home on four occasions this season.
But the Raiders’ home record this year makes for much better reading. The Green Machine has won four out of the six games played at the fortress GIO Stadium is, a solid record stamped with a 46-6 thumping of the Wests Tigers three rounds in and a tenacious come-from-behind win over the Warriors in Round 7.
The upcoming string of home games will present the men in green with a golden opportunity to arrest the indifferent form that has seen them slip to 10th on the ladder.
Be there when the Raiders shoot for a return to the winners’ circle against Wayne Bennett’s men on Saturday evening.
2. Golden-point heartbreak
The Raiders will look to exact revenge for a one-point loss to the Broncos when the two sides last locked horns. It came in Round 4 in the furnace of Suncorp Stadium, when Jordan Kahu banged a 74th-minute drop goal through the uprights to hand the hosts a 13-12 victory. It followed a Jarrod Croker conversion just two minutes earlier that had locked things up at 12-apiece after Blake Austin pulled off a stunning piece of play to keep the game alive, putting Elliott Whiteahad through a gap before ploughing through to collect a Jack Wighton inside ball and dot down.
3. Origin players backing up
It is said that every time a player returns to club football post-Origin he does so with a sense of aura surrounding him. He is one of the best 34 rugby league players in Australia to have just engaged in an 80-minute tug-of-war tussle in an exhausting test of both physical and mental strength for either Queensland or New South Wales.
The Raiders’ Josh Papalii will don Queensland colours for the eighth time since his Origin debut in Game II of 2013 and will likely back up to face the Broncos.
On the other side of the ledger, a total of three Brisbane players will look to save the series for the Maroons tomorrow night in Darius Boyd, Matt Gillett and Josh McGuire.
Keep an eye on these four Origin players on Saturday if they happen to lug their battered and bruised frames through another 80-minute slug just four days after the second Origin edition. They are the big names and they come up with the big plays.
4. Ricky’s first game since re-signing
The Raiders’ clash with the Broncos will mark Head Coach Ricky Stuart’s first game since re-signing with the club. The Raiders announced on Monday that Stuart will remain with Canberra until the end of the 2020 season in a two-year extension on his current contract.
Expect the men in green to come out all guns blazing in the wake of the huge boost to the club.
5. Canberra’s winter nip
One question surrounding the performance of every Queensland outfit in the nation’s capital is whether Canberra’s bitter winter nip will have too much bite.
That question will be asked of the Broncos when they travel to Canberra this week for a 5:30pm game on Saturday. It is at this time of the year that Canberra temperatures drop lower and lower by the day, so it will be interesting to see how the boys from the balmy Sunshine State handle the cooler climate.
The Broncos prevailed 24-12 when they last paid a visit to Canberra in late May of 2015, but two new-look line-ups are set to square off this weekend.