Here are five big talking points ahead of the Raiders’ must-win clash with the Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium this Saturday night.
1. Suspension is set to leave a number of holes in the Raiders’ side, but with suspension comes opportunity. Josh Papalii will see out the second of his two games on the sidelines for his shoulder on Josh Dugan in Round 19, while Jordan Rapana will miss the match against the Rabbitohs due to a shoulder charge on Melbourne back-rower Nelson Asofa-Solomona. There is also a possibility that Sia Soliola will be suspended when he meets the judiciary tonight, but there are a number of Raiders players vying for selection ahead of the must-win encounter.
2. The Green Machine will be out to replicate the devastating form that propelled the side to a 54-4 victory over Souths when the two sides last met. The 50-point win came in Round 21 of last season in a match in which Rapana and second-row Elliott Whitehead bagged a pair of tries each. The Raiders led 26-0 at half-time before continuing the carnage in the second stanza.
3. Keep an eye on the battle of the halves. Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer have hit their straps in the last couple of games and will meet another stern challenge when they meet the experienced duo of five-eighth Cody Walker and halfback Adam Reynolds. The expert kicking games of Sezer and Reynolds shapes as a highly influential aspect of the contest, while the classy running and passing games of Austin and Walker will also play a big hand in the outcome of the game.
4. The Raiders have only travelled to Sydney on three occasions this season. They haven’t done so since their gut-wrenching one-point loss to Manly in Round 13. Saturday’s clash will present the Raiders’ Sydney-based fans with an opportunity to watch the men in green play in the flesh.
5. It will not only be Ricky Stuart’s men with an eye on clinching victory this weekend, but Brett White’s men too. The Raiders U20s will be out to make amends for a 36-24 loss to the Storm on Saturday as they aim to bolster their top-eight chances. They are currently perched in 11th on the ladder and sitting four points outside the eight, meaning the NYC clash with the Bunnies fares as a highly important fixture.