The Raiders travel to Melbourne to face ladder leaders the Storm in what will be match of the round in the NRL.
Jack Wighton 150 Raiders games:
This weekend will be Jack Wighton’s 150th game for the Canberra Raiders. The boy from Orange first made his debut for the club in 2012 when he started on the wing as the Raiders defeated the Gold Coast Titans 24-12 at Robina Stadium in Round 1.
Wighton now plays in the halves for the green machine having spent the majority of his career in green at fullback.
Earlier this year, Wighton played in all three games of the 2019 State of Origin series for NSW as they reclaimed their title.
Battle of the Hookers:
The games best two hookers will face off again for the second time this season when the Raiders travel to AAMI Park.
Raiders Co-Captain Josh Hodgson has been in scintillating form in recent weeks while Cameron Smith continues to lead the Storm’s charge as they hold their spot at the top of the NRL ladder.
Cameron Smith’s influence for the Storm has been a key part of their success despite the Club losing leaders Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk in previous seasons.
Both players will stake a big claim into how their side will perform on Saturday afternoon and it could go a long way to deciding this contest.
The green machine have been boosted this week by the return of destructive centre Joey Leilua to the starting side.
Leilua makes his first start for the green machine since coming back from a neck injury which he sustained in the Raiders Round 7 loss to the Manly Sea Eagles at Brookvale Oval earlier this season.
Leilua once again links up with Jordan Rapana on the right side to which, over the past few years has been known as the ‘Leipana’ partnership.
This is welcome news for coach Ricky Stuart to have one of his most dangerous players return to the side as the season heads towards the business end.
The Raiders have had great success on the road this year, winning five of their past six games away from home in 2019.
Recently, the green machine have won their away games against the Bulldogs, Tigers, Dragons, Panthers and Warriors and have only lost to the Eels in Darwin where the Raiders had to adapt after a rough day of travelling which included cancelled flights and long hours spent at airports.
Stuart has highlighted in the past that the team tend to bond on away trips interstate, and he will be looking for more of the same when the team head down to Victoria this weekend to tackle the Storm.
With the team announced on Tuesday afternoon, Stuart welcomed back Joey Leilua to the starting side. Leilua’s availability has caused a healthy selection headache and the Raiders coach has opted to keep Bailey Simonsson in his side with Siliva Havili dropping out of the 17.
Much has been speculated about who can slot in at hooker if Hodgson goes down. John Bateman has previously played there for England and even scored towards the end of the game in the Denver Test last year.
Aidan Sezer can also slot into a hooking role if required and Simonsson may be utilised for Leilua which could see Cotric come back into the centres for part of the game.