The Canberra Raiders are gearing up for a run into the NRL Finals with a trip to Wollongong to face the St George Illawarra Dragons.
John Bateman scored a try for the green machine in last week’s 18-6 defeat to the Roosters while Ryan Sutton and Joe Tapine were both hugely impressive in the forward pack.
The Dragons will be determined to give interim coach Dean Young a win after they were edged by the North Queensland Cowboys last week in golden point.
Both sides have made changes to their team for the encounter, with the Dragons set to hand a debut to exciting young winger Cody Ramsey who earlier starred for the joint venture outfit at the Perth Nines.
Fullback for Dragons is number 1 Matthew DuftyFullback for Raiders is number 1 Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad
Winger for Dragons is number 2 Jordan PereiraWinger for Raiders is number 2 Semi Valemei
Centre for Dragons is number 3 Euan AitkenCentre for Raiders is number 3 Jarrod Croker
Centre for Dragons is number 4 Zac LomaxCentre for Raiders is number 4 Jordan Rapana
Winger for Dragons is number 5 Cody RamseyWinger for Raiders is number 5 Nick Cotric
Five-Eighth for Dragons is number 6 Corey NormanFive-Eighth for Raiders is number 6 Jack Wighton
Halfback for Dragons is number 7 Adam CluneHalfback for Raiders is number 7 George Williams
Prop for Dragons is number 8 Kaide EllisProp for Raiders is number 8 Josh Papalii
Hooker for Dragons is number 9 Ben HuntHooker for Raiders is number 9 Tom Starling
Prop for Dragons is number 10 Paul VaughanProp for Raiders is number 15 Dunamis Lui
2nd Row for Dragons is number 11 Tyson Frizell2nd Row for Raiders is number 11 John Bateman
2nd Row for Dragons is number 17 Jackson Ford2nd Row for Raiders is number 12 Elliott Whitehead
Lock for Dragons is number 13 Cameron McInnesLock for Raiders is number 13 Joseph Tapine
Interchange for Dragons is number 14 Billy BrittainInterchange for Raiders is number 10 Ryan Sutton
Interchange for Dragons is number 15 Josh KerrInterchange for Raiders is number 14 Siliva Havili
Interchange for Dragons is number 16 Blake LawrieInterchange for Raiders is number 16 Hudson Young
Interchange for Dragons is number 19 Tyrell FuimaonoInterchange for Raiders is number 17 Corey Harawira-Naera
The Dragons also announced early in the week that Anthony Griffin will take the reigns as head coach from 2021.
The Raiders will be looking to win all their remaining games with a slim chance of the green machine sneaking into the top four despite last weekend’s setback to the Sydney Roosters. The Raiders sit two points behind the Roosters and four points behind the Eels with three games remaining.
Dragons v Raiders - Round 18
Josh Papalii has been named for the Raiders despite suffering an injury to his shoulder during the match against the Roosters. Sia Soliola has also been named in the 21 man side, his first inclusion in the squad since suffering a facial fracture against the Dragons back in Round 8 at GIO Stadium.
For the Dragons, they welcome back former Raider Paul Vaughan back into their side after he completed serving a suspension for a crusher tackle during the Dragons loss to the Titans over a fortnight ago.
Cody Ramsey will make his debut after coach Dean Young opted to leave out Mikaele Ravalawa.
Last time: The Raiders put on a dominant first half performance at GIO Stadium to stride out to an 18-0 lead heading into the break. A late fightback from the Dragons as well as injuries to key Raiders players ensured a nervy ending for Canberra as they claimed a narrow 22-16 win.
Match Highlights: Raiders v Dragons
Key match ups:
Ryan Sutton v Paul Vaughan
The battle in the middle will go a long way towards deciding the outcome. Vaughan will no doubt come out firing after enduring a difficult month. The former Raiders has averaged 35 tackles per game as well as over 160 running metres per game.
Sutton has been impressive for Ricky Stuart’s men recently and was even voted as man of the match in last week’s loss to the Sydney Roosters. Sutton completed 39 tackles and ran for 169 metres with 65 of those being post-contact. Sutton’s has come a long way since arriving from Wigan at the start of the 2019 season.
Cameron McInnes v Joe Tapine
Dragons Captain Cameron McInnes has been a standout for his side in 2020. An absolute workhorse, McInnes has been playing some of his best footy since shifting from hooker to lock. Last week, he completed 56 tackles and ran for over 200 metres in the golden point loss to the Cowboys.
After the loss against the Roosters, Raiders coach Ricky Stuart singled out Joe Tapine for playing ‘career best footy’ since joining the club. Destructive with the ball in hand, Tapine caused the Roosters defence plenty of headaches and will no doubt be one that the Dragons will be determined to keep quiet on Saturday afternoon. Tapine also crossed over the try line in the 2019 corresponding fixture.
Euan Aitken v Jordan Rapana
With Curtis Scott still out with a foot injury, Ricky Stuart has shifted Jordan Rapana into the centres to accommodate his side. Versatile across the back five, Rapana’s aggression in defence and ability to wreak havoc in attack makes him a valuable member of the Raiders side. Rapana will be looking to alienate the Dragon's left threat of Aitken and Pereira.
Aitken was arguably the Dragon’s best player on the field when the two sides last clashed in Round 8 at GIO Stadium. Aitken ran for over 221 running metres and made over 10 tackle breaks.
Head to head:
In 31 matches played between the two sides, the Raiders have the advantage with 19 wins compared to the Dragons 11, with the sides sharing the spoils with a draw on one occasion.