The Canberra Raiders will be looking for three straight wins when they face the North Queensland Cowboys for in Indigenous round this Saturday night in Townsville.
There are some big changes in the Canberra line-up for this week, following their nail-biting 18 – 12 win over South Sydney in round 11 which will see Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad miss a couple of weeks.
With the fullback having surgery on his little finger after suffering a compound fracture, Coach Ricky Stuart has shifted Jordan Rapana back to fill his place, with Curtis Scott returning from injury and named to start in the centres.
Also returning from the Raiders casualty ward is John Bateman after having surgery on a shoulder injury that sidelined the Englishman for the 2020 season. Bateman will no doubt be keen to make an impact in his first appearance since the 2019 Grand Final.
Another welcome addition to the squad and the Capital is Corey Harawira-Naera, who has been named on the bench for the Raiders following his release from the Bulldogs.
The mid-season recruit was cleared by the NRL’s Apollo committee to enter the Raiders bubble and trained with the team on Tuesday.
Focusing on the future, the Raiders newest recruit will be keen to get some game time and will no doubt put in the work, with the potential to win a premiership in the back of his mind.
The Cowboys will be trying to avoid a five-game losing streak following their 24 - 12 loss to Manly last week. They showed some encouraging signs for their 80-minute clash that will likely give them some confidence coming into this weekend’s game.
There are some changes in the Cowboys pack for round 12 as well, with Josh McGuire suspended for this round after a grade one charge for a dangerous tackle last week.
Daejarn Asi has been ruled with a knee injury, with Mitch Dunn moving in to replace the five-eighth, and Francis Molo moves into the starting squad for the suspended prop.
The Cowboys will welcome a number of players back this weekend, with Jordan McLean and Connelly Lemuelu returning to the starting line-up, John Asiata on the bench and Jake Granville, Emry Pere and Esan masters named in the reserves.
Although they haven’t got the results in recent weeks, the 12th place Cowboys have lifted their game and shown improvements across the park since conceding 42 points two weeks in a row in rounds eight and nine.
The Raiders climbed to fifth on the ladder after their gutsy performance last week which saw Semi Valemei earn the match-winning try and his first in the NRL in his second game. To secure a top-four position, the Raiders will need a convincing win this weekend to close the gap between fourth-place Roosters who have earned 100 extra points on the field.
Fullback for Cowboys is number 1 Hamiso Tabuai-FidowFullback for Raiders is number 1 Jordan Rapana
Winger for Cowboys is number 2 Kyle FeldtWinger for Raiders is number 2 Semi Valemei
Centre for Cowboys is number 3 Justin O'NeillCentre for Raiders is number 3 Jarrod Croker
Centre for Cowboys is number 4 Connelly LemueluCentre for Raiders is number 4 Curtis Scott
Winger for Cowboys is number 5 Murray TaulagiWinger for Raiders is number 5 Nick Cotric
Five-Eighth for Cowboys is number 19 Ben HamptonFive-Eighth for Raiders is number 6 Jack Wighton
Halfback for Cowboys is number 7 Jake CliffordHalfback for Raiders is number 7 George Williams
Prop for Cowboys is number 10 Jordan McLeanProp for Raiders is number 8 Josh Papalii
Hooker for Cowboys is number 9 Reece RobsonHooker for Raiders is number 9 Siliva Havili
Prop for Cowboys is number 17 Francis MoloProp for Raiders is number 10 Dunamis Lui
2nd Row for Cowboys is number 11 Shane Wright2nd Row for Raiders is number 11 John Bateman
2nd Row for Cowboys is number 12 Coen Hess2nd Row for Raiders is number 12 Elliott Whitehead
Lock for Cowboys is number 13 Jason TaumaloloLock for Raiders is number 13 Hudson Young
Interchange for Cowboys is number 14 Mitchell DunnInterchange for Raiders is number 14 Tom Starling
Interchange for Cowboys is number 15 Tom GilbertInterchange for Raiders is number 15 Joseph Tapine
Interchange for Cowboys is number 16 Gavin CooperInterchange for Raiders is number 16 Ryan Sutton
Interchange for Cowboys is number 18 John AsiataInterchange for Raiders is number 17 Corey Harawira-Naera
It was Indigenous round in 2019 when the teams last met, when the Cowboys travelled to Canberra, defeating the Raiders 16 – 22, with three penalty goals the difference.
The Cowboys made the Raiders pay for their mistakes in their 2019 victory, with the majority of their points coming off the back of errors or penalty’s, so the Raiders will have to maintain a tight ship if they want to avoid a repeat of last time.
Key match ups
Hudson Young v Jason Taumalolo
With just 18 appearances in the NRL, Hudson Young has a huge test ahead of him this weekend when he comes up against the best Lock in the NRL.
Cowboys Captain Jason Taumalolo is averaging a massive 224 running metres per game this season, second in the league across all positions, beaten only by James Tedesco.
Young’s defence will have to be at its best to keep Taumalolo quiet, as the international star leads the competition in post-contact metres on 944, with 39 tackle breaks and an average of 18.5 hit-ups.
Making 49 tackles last week and missing just two, the Raiders forward will be up for the challenge defensively. Breaking from a couple of tackles in recent games, Young has proved to be hard to handle at times and the Cowboys star will need to be ready for a tough physical clash against the fiery young Raider.
Dunamis Lui v Jordan McLean
Dunamis Lui has been one of the most unsung heroes of the Raiders side in the past fortnight, with his 3 one on one strips coming at crucial times in both of the Raiders last two victories.
Coupled with some strong carries with the ball and some hard-hitting defence, Lui received praise from Coach Ricky Stuart after last weeks win for his relentless attitude with and without the ball. Against a big Cowboys pack, his efforts will be needed again on Saturday.
Jordan McLean returns for his first game since round seven and will be looking to make an impact for his struggling side. McLean has played in all three games that the Cowboys have won this season, and he just might be the boost they need, averaging 122 running metres per game, the prop will be well-rested and ready to get back out in front of a home crowd.
Match Highlights: Raiders v Rabbitohs
Elliott Whitehead v Coen Hess
Week after week Elliott Whitehead turns up for the Raiders, putting in huge performances both in attack and defence. Scoring four tries, with two try assists and seven line breaks, the Englishman will be one to watch when the Raiders are on the attack this weekend.
Coen Hess will get the job of keeping Whitehead quiet this Saturday, and with a tackle efficiency of 90%, the Cowboys second-rower will be up for the task. The Origin star is averaging 100 running metres per game and has a record of nine offloads so far this season, so Whitehead will need to be on the ball to keep Hess in check.
John Bateman v Shane Wright
John Bateman had an explosive first season in the NRL in 2019, captivating the competition and being named Dally M Second Rower of the Year. Coming over from England to join the Raiders, Bateman earned himself five tries, four line breaks, 820 tackles and a massive 40 offloads in his 2019 season. It doesn’t stop there though, as the Raiders second-rower showed some skill off the boot, proving he can do just about anything.
Bateman lines up against Shane Wright who has made big improvements in his game recently, putting on a big performance against Manly last week with 101 running metres and 53 post-contact metres. The pair have never faced each other and being Bateman’s first game of the season, he will be sure to put in a big performance, but Wright will be ready.
Head to head
The Raiders have won 20 of the 39 games against the Cowboys since 1998, and although the Raiders have won more games this season, both teams are neck and neck for completion rates and points scored, with the balance hanging in the points conceded.