For everything we've read about the struggles endured by the Dragons in 2019, they're just two points adrift of eighth spot.
With Origin now in the rear-vision mirror the Dragons will be hoping Ben Hunt, Corey Norman, Tyson Frizell and Paul Vaughan return from Origin III in good health and ready to kick-start at run at the finals.
In recent years the last 10 rounds haven't been kind to Paul McGregor's side. They need to turn that around if they're to keep playing beyond round 25.
As for the Raiders, they need to rediscover to the form they displayed over the opening six weeks.
In the next three weeks, they face teams sitting outside the top eight after round 16 (Dragons, Wests Tigers, Panthers). If they're able to get six points from that stretch a top-four finish is there for the taking.
Dragons: In a raft of changes announced an hour before kick-off, Ben Hunt (No.21) will start at halfback, Paul Vaughan (No.22) at prop and Tyson Frizell (No.23) in the second row. Blake Lawrie moves from prop back to lock while Jacob Host and Luciano Leilua move from the starting side to the bench. Tariq Sims returns from suspension and his brother Korbin moves to the bench. James Graham and Jason Saab were omitted from the extended squad 24 hours before kick-off.
Raiders: In changes announced 60 minutes before game time, Maroons prop Josh Papalii will start off the bench with Sia Soliola moving into the run-one side. Ryan Sutton was named on Tuesday but withdrew on Saturday with a calf strain and his place on the bench is taken by Emre Guler. Sam Williams and Michael Oldfield were the two men dropped from the squad an hour before game time. Sutton and Royce Hunt were left out on Saturday.
Two fullbacks who can take over with their speed collide in Matthew Dufty and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad. Dufty has shown he has the ability to break a game open, whilst Nicoll-Klokstad has been a standout for the Raiders this season and tops the competition in run metres and kick return metres.
For the Dragons to win
After the way the Raiders fell away as the game went on in their loss to the Eels in Round 15, the Dragons will be thinking that the longer they're in the contest the better their chances will become. Self-doubt has been the factor for the Raiders for parts of each of the last few seasons.
For the Raiders to win
The Raiders are making the most of a great all-round kicking game. They lead the NRL in total kicks and kick metres while holding a share of top spot when it comes to 40/20 kicks. When combined with their strong running game out of dummy half, it's a good platform for success.
Brett Kimmorley says
I’ve got no idea why they have the Dragons as favourites. The Raiders have been very good this year. They have minimal affect from State of Origin and will have a better preparation than the Dragons will. For the Dragons, Cameron McInnes was amazing for them last week, I thought he had his best game of the season. The Dragons may be heavily affected by Origin while the Raiders will have a cruisey preparation. Raiders by 8
It's not the prettiest play in the world, but the Raiders are proving the kings of dummy-half runs in 2019. Their total of 250 is a whopping 47 more than second-best South Sydney. The Dragons have 136 dummy-half runs at the same stage of the year.
And another thing ...
The Dragons have 260 ineffective tackles credited against them, 55 more than the Raiders. Such a stat will have the hard-running Raiders outside backs thinking they could be in for a bountiful haul in Wollongong.