The Canberra Raiders return to GIO Stadium for the first time in over a month on Saturday night to face the North Queensland Cowboys, knowing that a win keeps them in the finals hunt.

The Raiders pulled off an incredible comeback last week to beat the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs with a try on the last play of the game after trailing by 14 points with just six minutes left.

The Cowboys had the bye last week after losing by just a point the week before to the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

The Raiders have made a number of changes to their 17 this week with Brad Abbey and Shannon Boyd out injured and Joe Tapine suspended for the next two matches.

Jordan Rapana has recovered from his hamstring injury and returns to the wing, with Nick Cotric moving to fullback. Luke Bateman returns after missing two weeks with a knee injury and Josh Papalii is set to back up from Origin with Siliva Havili moving to the bench.

Canberra are yet to name Tapine's replacement but 18th man Liam Knight will likely come into the side with either Sia Soliola or Havili a chance to move onto the edge.

The Cowboys welcome back John Asiata from injury who will return at prop, forcing Corey Jensen to the bench and Francis Molo to the reserves.

Last time: The Raiders pulled off a great team win when these sides met in Townsville back in round eight, prevailing 18-8.

It was 6-all at half-time before some gritty defence and tries to Aidan Sezer and Siliva Havili secured the win for the Green Machine.

Key Matchups

Josh Papalii vs Jason Taumalolo

This week the Raiders come up against arguably the hardest running lock in the game, Jason Taumalolo.

Taumalolo is second to only Blake Ferguson for total run metres in 2018, he has the most post-contact metres and is fourth for tackle breaks. Each week the Cowboys look to him to lead their forward pack and each week he delivers. Unlike most of the other dominant forwards in the game he is unaffected by Origin duties or mid-season trips to Denver and only plays representative football for Tonga which has allowed him to power through at a time when plenty of others are beginning to tire.

Luckily the Raiders have a hard-hitting lock of their own to combat Taumalolo's impact, with Josh Papalii looking to have a big game as he bounces back from State of Origin. Papalii has been huge for the Raiders again this season and he provides Canberra's attack with plenty of power and direction, as well as being an intimidating figure in defence. The battle between the two big locks will be one of the highlights of Saturday's clash.

Nick Cotric vs Lachlan Coote

Nick Cotric is one of the form players in the NRL right now, continually finding his way over the try line. His try against the Bulldogs extended his run to eight consecutive matches with a four-pointer.

He also leads the league in line breaks and is behind only Kalyn Ponga for tackle breaks. His move to fullback this week should see him get his hands on the football even more, but it may also mean he has to work harder for try-scoring opportunities.

Cotric will be the Raiders' third fullback in four weeks and it will be interesting to see how he goes wearing the number one. He impressed during his only other match at fullback this year where he ran for 142 metres against the Bulldogs and looked dangerous whenever he touched the ball.

Cotric comes up against a premiership-winning fullback in Lachlan Coote. After missing the first five weeks of the season due to injury, Coote has been good for the Cowboys, providing security at the back and an extra option in attack.

Like most of the Cowboys players, Coote would be disappointed in how the 2018 season has progressed but it was only last year that he helped guide North Queensland to a Grand Final berth and the Raiders can't afford to underestimate him on Saturday night.

Blake Austin vs Ben Hampton

When these two teams met in round eight the result was up in the air right until the last few minutes and there's a good chance that this week will also go down to the wire.

If that is the case, the battle of the utilities could end up deciding the match. Last week Blake Austin showed the impact that a man in form can have off the bench. The match looked lost when Austin came on with 15 minutes left but he made things happen every time he got the ball. He ran for 118 metres, made three line breaks and scored a try during his time on the field, almost single-handedly winning the match for the Green Machine. Canberra will be hoping they don't have to be rescued by Austin again this week, but his performance showed just how much impact a utility can have off the bench.

Like Austin, Ben Hampton has spent most of the season in the starting side and was only recently moved to the bench after performing well both at fullback and in the centres. He has the ability to play as a backup to Jake Granville at hooker or come on in any position in the backline, giving Paul Green plenty of flexibility. He might not be as explosive as Austin but he has plenty of ability and if it's a close match watch for one of these two to come off the bench and blow it wide open.

Quote of the week:

"We're in survival mode at the moment, every game comes with a costly price, so we've just got to keep on winning." -Junior Paulo

Head to head: The Raiders have had the better of things between these two. They've won 22 of the previous clashes, with the Cowboys winning the other 18.