The stakes are high at GIO Stadium this Saturday as Canberra Raiders go head to head with rivals the Melbourne Storm for round nine of the competition.
It's no secret that the rivalry runs deep when these two sides clash. It's been the Green Machine that has managed to come out on top on the last three occasions that the sides met.
The Storms' game has only improved since they last went down to the Raiders back in round three in Melbourne and they’re looking hungry for redemption.
Both sides will be heading into the match on the back of a win in round eight. The Raiders managed to hang on to a 22-16 win against the Dragons in what was their first game back at GIO Stadium since round one.
The Storm managed to fight their way back against the Roosters to win 27-25 in what was an epic golden point thriller. It’s going to take a full 80 minutes of the Raiders best football if they're to claim victory again against the Storm on Saturday.
The Raiders have made significant changes to their starting squad after Sia Soliola (facial fracture) and Emre Guler (ankle) joined the casualty ward last week.
Josh Papalii and Joseph Tapine will rejoin the starting 17, along with Dunamis Lui who will step up in the absence of Soliola.
Young gun Kai O'Donnell is set to make his NRL debut as Raider #365, after being named on the interchange for Saturday's game. Jordan Rapana has also been named on the bench, returning from a calf strain.
Curtis Scott moves onto the extended bench, joining Tom Starling, Matt Frawley and Darby Medlyn.
The Storm has also made a few changes to their starting side. Skipper Cameron Smith returns to hooker after a run at the five-eighth last week, meaning Brandon Smith drops to the interchange and Ryley Jacks moves into the halves. Marion Seve will be taking the place of Suli Vunivalu, who’s out with a hamstring strain.
Cameron Munster has been named on the extended bench with a chance of an early return from a knee injury.
Hodgson vs Smith
A battle of the skippers. If history is anything to go by, it’ll be nothing less than spectacular as two of the best hookers in the NRL Josh Hodgson and Cameron Smith, go head-to-head on Saturday.
Hodgson is one of the most impactful players on the field. So far this season he’s racked up three try assists, two line break assists, two forced drop outs, 965 receipts and 350 tackles.
Meanwhile, Smith remains at the centre of the Storms attack and defence. So far this season he’s accomplished six try assists, seven line break assists, five forced drop outs, six offloads, 967 receipts and 324 tackles.
The two men have both talent and experience in their corner and it’s set to be an epic showdown as they gear up in hope to lead their team to back to back victories.
Simonsson vs Addo-Carr
Bailey Simonsson comes up against NSW representative Josh Addo-Carr and he’ll need to bring his best game if he’s able to tame the Fox.
Since stepping on the NRL scene out of now where last year, Bailey Simonsson continues to prove just how valuable of a signing he is to the Raiders. With two tries under his belt so far this season and an average of 109 metres a game, he’s always ready to pounce on an opportunity at any given moment. Simonsson did just that last weekend, scoring an epic try against the Dragons, soaring through the air to catch the kick and pummel into the in-goal, he showcased his true strength and agility. Simonsson will be looking for more action again this weekend against the Storm.
Give him an inch and he’ll take a mile, Addo-Carr is nicknamed the Fox for good reason. He's one of the fastest players in the league clocking up a speed of 36.8km/h. The Raiders will have to keep close tabs on the winger if they’re to avoid him making an escape to the try line.
Nicoll-Klokstad vs Papenhuyzen
It’ll be a blockbuster battle between fullbacks at GIO Stadium on Saturday when Raiders playmaker Chanze Nicoll-Klokstad faces up with Ryan Papenhuyzen.
Both men have played key roles in their sides’ success so far this season and a standout game from one of them could prove the difference for the win.
The two sit neck and neck in what are some impressive stats. Nicoll-Klokstad has claimed himself two tries, one try assist, 22 tackle breaks and is averaging a whopping 209 metres a game. Whereas Papenhuyzen has three tries, two try assists, 25 tackle breaks, four line breaks and an average of 180 metres a game.
Papenhuyzen proved he’s the go-to man for the Storm in last weekends’ golden point thriller against the Roosters, when he kicked the winning goal. Nicoll-Klokstad will be ready to apply the pressure to avoid any points getting away on his watch.
Head to head:
In the 47 times the Raiders have come up against the Storm, the Storm has won 33 of those matches. In recent times, the Raiders have won their last three matches against the Storm, all away at AAMI Park. The Raiders are ready to capitalise on this weeks’ home advantage to make it four in a row!
Raiders v Storm - Round 9