The Canberra Raiders will be looking to make it three straight victories when they face the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs on Sunday evening at GIO Stadium.
The Raiders were convincing winners last start against the Gold Coast Titans as they scored more than 30 points for the second match in a row.
Jack Wighton and Nick Cotric starred in the performance as both players bagged a double, while Josh Papalii’s 60-metre sprint and then ankle tap on Titans half Jamal Fogarty will go down in Raiders folklore.
The middle of the park is one the Green Machines strong points at the moment, Ryan Sutton had arguably his best game in the NRL, running for 205 metres and providing a good platform for his side to work with.
With the addition of John Bateman, the right-hand edge of George Williams, Curtis Scott and Cotric is looking potent and it is something the Bulldogs need to be wary of.
Although they were narrowly defeated by the New Zealand Warriors in their last start, the Bulldogs have been improving week to week.
Fullback for Raiders is number 1 Charnze Nicoll-KlokstadFullback for Bulldogs is number 1 Will Hopoate
Winger for Raiders is number 2 Jordan RapanaWinger for Bulldogs is number 2 Nick Meaney
Centre for Raiders is number 3 Jarrod CrokerCentre for Bulldogs is number 3 Marcelo Montoya
Centre for Raiders is number 4 Curtis ScottCentre for Bulldogs is number 4 Kerrod Holland
Winger for Raiders is number 5 Nick CotricWinger for Bulldogs is number 5 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
Five-Eighth for Raiders is number 6 Jack WightonFive-Eighth for Bulldogs is number 6 Kieran Foran
Halfback for Raiders is number 7 George WilliamsHalfback for Bulldogs is number 7 Lachlan Lewis
Prop for Raiders is number 10 Dunamis LuiProp for Bulldogs is number 8 Ofahiki Ogden
Hooker for Raiders is number 14 Tom StarlingHooker for Bulldogs is number 9 Jeremy Marshall-King
Prop for Raiders is number 16 Ryan SuttonProp for Bulldogs is number 10 Dylan Napa
2nd Row for Raiders is number 11 John Bateman2nd Row for Bulldogs is number 11 Josh Jackson
2nd Row for Raiders is number 12 Elliott Whitehead2nd Row for Bulldogs is number 12 Raymond Faitala-Mariner
Lock for Raiders is number 15 Joseph TapineLock for Bulldogs is number 13 Aiden Tolman
Interchange for Raiders is number 8 Josh PapaliiInterchange for Bulldogs is number 14 Sione Katoa
Interchange for Raiders is number 9 Siliva HaviliInterchange for Bulldogs is number 15 Renouf To'omaga
Interchange for Raiders is number 13 Hudson YoungInterchange for Bulldogs is number 16 Dean Britt
Interchange for Raiders is number 17 Matthew TimokoInterchange for Bulldogs is number 17 Matt Doorey
Veteran half Kieran Foran is controlling his side around the park nicely as he looks to consolidate a new contract for next season and fullback Nick Meaney is a livewire at the back who can break open a defensive line with his sheer pace.
The Raiders will need to limit both these men if they are to make it a happy homecoming this week.
Although 11 places separate these two sides on the ladder, the Raiders need to be wary of a Bulldogs side with nothing to lose as they look to play ‘party pooper’ for sides in finals contention.
Coach Ricky Stuart has made a sole change, Corey Harawira-Naera is unavailable to play against his former club due to a clause in his contract, impressive rookie Matt Timoko will replace the former Bulldog on the bench.
Bulldogs interim coach Steve Georgallis has made a plethora of changes to his side Luke Thompson, Jack Cogger, Reimis Smith, Tim Lafai and interchange players Jake Averillo and Sausao Sue have all been omitted from the side.
Lachlan Lewis slots in at halfback, Marcelo Montoya at centre and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak on the wing. In the forwards Dylan Napa returns from suspension, Josh Jackson is in the backrow and Aiden Tolman slots in at lock. On the bench is rookie Matt Doorey and Renouf To’omaga and Dean Britt join the starting 17.
John Bateman was back with a bang from a facial fracture as he inspired the Raiders to a gritty 12-10 victory at ANZ Stadium. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad ran for over 300 metres and made the game saving tackle in the dying moments as the Raiders snapped a three-game losing streak.
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad vs Will Hopoate
The ‘battle at the back’ is huge, with Nicoll-Klokstad establishing himself as one of the premier fullbacks of the competition and Hopoate trying to lockdown the number one jersey for the Bulldogs.
Nicoll-Klokstad has gone from strength to strength again this season and has also developed some nice ball playing skills, with that on display last week with his cut-out ball to Cotric ending in a Canberra try.
In contrast, Hopoate has spent a large chunk of the season out injured but Is a big metre-eater with the Tongan international running for 229 metres last week.
Both players take plenty of pressure off their forward packs with big metres from their red-zone, neither player will shy away from doing the hard yards – strap yourselves in for a mouth-watering battle at the back.
Jack Wighton vs Kieran Foran
Wighton was huge last week as he returned to form with his running game doing the talking and will need a similar performance when he faces an international half.
Wighton looked rejuvenated as he ran the Titans rugged with the Clive Churchill medallist running for 113 metres and scoring twice.
Foran has come into his own in the last couple of weeks, with the New Zealand international playing for a new contract, he will be keen to repeat last week’s try scoring efforts as he aims to steer his side to an upset victory.
The proof is in the pudding that this matchup has the potential to be game breaking, so expect to see both sides rely on their five-eighths to steer the ship.
John Bateman vs Josh Jackson
A big battle in every sense of the word, Bateman and Jackson are two world quality players with plenty to prove.
Bateman has been a revelation since his return from injury, he has put in some big performances and his link up with Williams has been one to look out for.
Not only does Bateman add spark in attack, his defence is gritty, with the man from Bradford making 32 tackles last week without a miss.
On the other hand, Jackson is the motor for the Bulldogs with the NSW representative averaging 88 metres and 35 tackles per game in 2020.
Both players get through a mountain of work and you just get the feeling that these men will be heavily involved in proceedings.
Head to Head:
In 36 battles between the two sides, they can’t be split with the sides sharing the spoils at 18 wins a piece. The Raiders boast a Grand Final win over the Bulldogs in 1994.