The Canberra Raiders are gearing up for a blockbuster match against the Sydney Roosters at GIO Stadium at 7:35 pm this Saturday, in a battle for fourth place on the ladder.
It's tipped to be the match of the round, with all eyes on the potential return of Roosters second-rower Sonny Bill Williams. Williams has been named in the reserves and is set to lace up the boots in the NRL for the first time in six years.
The Raiders will be looking to tarnish the fairy-tale return of the world-class athlete and have their eyes set on leapfrogging the Roosters for fourth place on the NRL ladder. Both teams currently sit on 22 points and are just two points shy of Parramatta Eels who sit in third place.
Raiders v Roosters - Round 17
The Raiders managed an epic second-half comeback against the Bulldogs to secure their third straight win. Both Jack Wighton and Tom Starling managed to bag a double to lead their team to a 34-20 victory.
The Green Machine will be looking to get on the front foot early this week and ruffle the Roosters feathers, to avoid the fight of another second-half comeback.
The Roosters are also coming off a win, after a 58-12 thrashing over the Broncos last weekend with Sitili Tupouniua, Josh Morris and Daniel Tupou all claiming doubles. The Roosters will be itching to do it all again for Josh Morris' 300th NRL game.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has made changes to last weeks' winning side, ahead of the 2.0 Grand Final rematch.
Powerhouse Josh Papalii and Siliva Havili return to the starting squad with Dunamis Lui and Tom Starling dropping back to the bench.
Corey Harawira-Naera also returns to the interchange in place of Matt Timoko who has been named on the extended bench. Harawira-Naera missed out on last weeks' match against his old club due to a contract clause but is fit and ready to take the field for round 17.
Curtis Scott is named at his usual starting position in the centres, despite leaving the field early last week with a leg injury. The Raiders will be keeping a close eye on his progress this week at training. However, he's looking fit to play.
Fullback for Raiders is number 1 Charnze Nicoll-KlokstadFullback for Roosters is number 1 James Tedesco
Winger for Raiders is number 2 Jordan RapanaWinger for Roosters is number 2 Daniel Tupou
Centre for Raiders is number 3 Jarrod CrokerCentre for Roosters is number 3 Josh Morris
Centre for Raiders is number 5 Nick CotricCentre for Roosters is number 4 Joseph Manu
Winger for Raiders is number 21 Semi ValemeiWinger for Roosters is number 5 Brett Morris
Five-Eighth for Raiders is number 6 Jack WightonFive-Eighth for Roosters is number 6 Luke Keary
Halfback for Raiders is number 7 George WilliamsHalfback for Roosters is number 7 Kyle Flanagan
Prop for Raiders is number 8 Josh PapaliiProp for Roosters is number 8 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
Hooker for Raiders is number 14 Tom StarlingHooker for Roosters is number 14 Freddy Lussick
Prop for Raiders is number 10 Ryan SuttonProp for Roosters is number 10 Siosiua Taukeiaho
2nd Row for Raiders is number 11 John Bateman2nd Row for Roosters is number 11 Boyd Cordner
2nd Row for Raiders is number 12 Elliott Whitehead2nd Row for Roosters is number 12 Sitili Tupouniua
Lock for Raiders is number 13 Joseph TapineLock for Roosters is number 13 Isaac Liu
Interchange for Raiders is number 9 Siliva HaviliInterchange for Roosters is number 15 Lindsay Collins
Interchange for Raiders is number 15 Dunamis LuiInterchange for Roosters is number 16 Nat Butcher
Interchange for Raiders is number 16 Hudson YoungInterchange for Roosters is number 17 Sonny Bill Williams
Interchange for Raiders is number 17 Corey Harawira-NaeraInterchange for Roosters is number 18 Angus Crichton
The Roosters have also made changes to their squad, with some big names being added to this weeks' side—playmaker Luke Keary returns from a rib injury, pushing Drew Hutchinson from the starting side and onto the extended bench. Keary's return will be pending a final fitness check.
Angus Crichton (knee) and Mitch Aubusson (wrist) are at a chance of an early return from injury, both being named on the bench.
Joining the squad for the first time since their 2013 Grand Final win is Sonny Bill Williams who has been named on the interchange, returning to the club after his most recent stint overseas, playing for Toronto Wolfpack in the Super League.
The pair last met back in round 10 at the SCG in what was the much-anticipated Grand Final rematch. The Raiders managed to be the ones to come away on top, claiming a nail-biting 20-24 victory over the reigning premiers.
Wighton v Keary
It's hard to look past Jack Wighton and Luke Keary on the field, when these two men are on their A-game, they're unstoppable. When they turn up the performance, the whole team usually follows.
Wighton continues to prove how deadly he is in the attack, snatching up double tries in his last two games. He'll be putting Keary's defensive skills to the ultimate test come Saturday. Wighton currently has eight tries, six try assists, six line-break assists and seven forced dropouts under his belt and is averaging 101 metres a game.
Keary will be fired up in his return to the field, after picking up a rib injury in the Roosters 24-6 loss to the Storm in round 14. Keary plays a crucial role in the success of the Roosters. In just 14 appearances this season, he's clocked up six tries, 13 try assists, seven line-break assists, 11 forced dropouts and averaging 81 metres a game.
A standout game from one will go a long way in getting their team the two points.
Croker v Manu
It'll be an extraordinary battle between two standout centres, and neither are to be underestimated. Canberra Raiders skipper Jarrod Croker is the backbone of the team. With the ability to read the opponents every move, he comes from nowhere to create pure magic on the field.
Joseph Manu is quickly becoming a household name, with a mean fend and powerhouse strength to crack through the defence, Croker will be keeping a close eye on the young gun.
Papalii v Waerea-Hargreaves
Two of the hardest hitting props in the league and they're sure to produce some bone-crunching tackles come Saturday.
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves doesn't shy away from a challenge, known as one of the most lethal props in the league. He boasts both strength and fearlessness, continuing to prove he's quite the handful in attack and a tough opponent in defence.
Josh Papalii is only getting better with age, and he continues to shape up to be one of the most valuable players at the club. He continues to show his strength and ability to rack up the metres, per game he's averaging 155 metres gained and 58.5 post-contact metres, he's near impossible to ground. Clocking 31.7km/h against the Titans in round 15, in an epic 30-metre sprint to produce a try saving ankle tap, it was the play everyone was talking about, proving there isn't much he can't do.
Head to Head:
The Canberra Raiders have gone head to head with the Sydney Roosters 65 times with the Roosters taking the cake with 36 wins. The Raiders are hot on their heels and are quickly moving towards evening up the scores.