The Canberra Raiders are back on the road this week, as they make their way to Netstrata Jubilee Stadium to go head to head with the Cronulla Sharks on Saturday at 5:35 pm.
It's the final round of the regular season, and both teams have plenty to play for this weekend. It'll be the first time the pair will meet in the 2020 season, and if history is anything to go by, it's set to be a cracker of a game.
The Raiders came one step closer to being top-four side after bagging a 26-14 win against the Warriors in round 19, in what was an action-packed match. A win this week for the Raiders will secure a fourth-place finish on the ladder ahead of finals if Parramatta lose their game to the Tigers.
The Sharks will also be hungry for the two points, as they look to bounce back from a 34-18 loss against the Roosters last week. The Sharks will be eager to get the dynamics right this weekend to head into finals footy with confidence.
There have been plenty of changes to the Green Machine ahead of Saturdays match as Coach Ricky Stuart has opted to rest nine players for finals.
With our regular starting players resting, it breaks open the doors for the next generation of Raiders to have their crack at first grade footy. The Raiders are set to have four club debutants lacing up the boots in Saturday's match. Adam Cook has been named as starting fullback to replace Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad who is out with a minor rib injury. While Darby Medlyn and Jarrett Subloo have both been named in the reserves. Matt Frawley has been named to in the halves, having previously played at NRL level with the Bulldogs.
Replacing Jack Wighton and George Williams in the halves will be Sam Williams and Matt Frawley, with both Wighton and George Williams being rested. George Williams missed the majority of round 19 after failing his HIA so he will be rested as a precaution.
Sam Williams makes his first appearance for this season and will take on the role of team Captain for the first time. Sam Williams will partner Frawley in the halves.
Also returning to the squad is Sia Soliola after recovering from a facial fracture earlier in the season. Soliola will replace Josh Papalii, who is also being rested.
Harley Smith-Shields and Matt Timoko have been named in the centres, with Jarrod Croker rested and Jordan Rapana missing one week with a minor knee injury.
John Bateman has been cleared of any serious elbow injury. Still, he will be rested this weekend along with Elliott Whitehead, with Hudson Young and Corey Harawira-Naera to start at second-row.
Tom Starling will start at hooker, with Siliva Havili starting at lock and Kai O'Donnell on the bench.
Must watch: Stuart announces four players to make Raiders debut
Sharks Coach John Morris has been forced to make changes to his starting squad after his side was hit hard with injuries in last weeks loss to the Roosters. Star playmakers Shaun Johnson and Chad Townsend are ruled out. Townsend still has one week left of his suspension while Johnson underwent surgery earlier in the week for an Achilles injury picked up in last weeks match.
Skipper Wade Graham returns from suspension but not to his usual position at second-row. Graham will slot into the halves alongside Connor Tracey to make up for the absence of Johnson.
Josh Dugan and Sione Katoa will both miss this weekends match after picking up leg injuries last week, with Nene MacDonald and Mawene Hiroti stepping in to replace them.
The last time the pair met was at Shark Park back in round 20 of the 2019 season, in what was an epic golden point thriller. The Raiders managed to claw their way back in the second half to even the score at 12-all before the sides went tit for tat in fields goals in the final minutes of the game. The match ended up in a golden point shootout, with Raiders taking the cake 14-15 after Aidan Sezer kicked his third successful field goal of the day, to steal the win.
Adam Cook v William Kennedy
Since joining the Raiders in the off-season, Adam Cook is looking to be a strong and versatile addition to the Raiders squad. Cook's hard work and dedication at training will be rewarded when he laces up the boots to make his NRL debut on Saturday. It was his stellar performance for the Blackhawks in the Intrust Super Cup over the years that initially caught the attention of the Raiders coaching staff. He will be eager to prove himself at a first-grade level and showcase his talent against the Sharks.
Cook won't have it easy though when he comes up against livewire young gun William Kennedy. In Kennedy's first season at starting fullback, he's quickly becoming a household name. He's a skilful young talent who continues to improve with every match.
Matt Frawley v Wade Graham
Matt Frawley is back to where it all started, pulling on the lime green jersey for the first time since captaining the Canberra Raiders under 20's side. Set to make his club first-grade debut on Sunday, and he'll be wearing that jersey with pride. Frawley returned to the club with an abundance of experience following stints at the Bulldogs and for Huddersfield in the Super League. He's continued to impress the coaching staff of the Raiders at training and will be one to watch on Saturday.
Frawley will line up against Sharks skipper Wade Graham, who is returning from suspension and will be ready to make up for the lost time. Graham will play in halves to make up the loss of Johnson.
Frawley: It's a dream come true
Corey Harawira-Naera v Briton Nikora
Two former teammates go to battle on Saturday and they'll both to looking to get the upper hand. The pair have previously linked up for the New Zealand Kiwi's and the Maori Allstars squad and were dynamite on the field together, but it'll be a different dynamic come Saturday.
Both players bring flair to their side. Nikora has the ability to make something out of nothing and crack through the slightest of holes in the defence to snatch up points for his side. In contrast, Harawira-Naera boasts both powerhouse strength and a mean fend. With John Bateman on his way next season, seeing Harawira-Naera take the field this weekend will give a glimpse of what's to come for the Raiders next year.
Head to Head:
The pair have gone head to head 41 times since 1998 with the Sharks coming out on top with 23 wins to the Raiders 18. In recent times though, it's been the Raiders that have managed to steal the two points, winning their last two meets.