A new look Canberra Raiders lineup will tackle the Cronulla Sharks in the last round of the regular season, with plenty to play for and a potential top four spot at stake, here is what we are excited to see in Round 20!
Oh Captain my Captain
Sam Williams will make his first appearance of 2020 and he will be leading the side for the first time in his career. Williams debuted for the Raiders in 2011, ironically against the Sharks and has made 90 appearances in green since then. The veteran halfback has been to England and the Dragons since in between these appearances, but his best moments have come in green. Williams has come somewhat of a cult hero in the Capital and will use his experience to guide a ‘baby’ Green Machine side around the park.
Welcome to the Future
Six of the 2019 Jersey Flegg Grand Finalists will line-up for the Raiders this week which could be a taste of things to come in the next decade. Semi Valemei, Kai O’Donnell, Harley Smith-Shields, Matt Timoko, Darby Medlyn and Jarrett Subloo have all be named as they look to make their mark in the NRL. In addition to the six Grand Finalists, Adam Cook will make his NRL debut and local junior Matt Frawley will make his long-awaited club debut. In another welcome addition, Iosia Soliola will also return from a horror facial fracture and lead the pack from the front.
If the Raiders manage to topple the Sharks and Parramatta fall to the Wests Tigers, it will mean the Green Machine will finish inside the top four. It will no doubt be in the back of Ricky Stuart’s mind with his side just focused on picking up the win, but a double chance is an enticing prospect, nonetheless. No side has ever won the premiership from outside the top four in the NRL era and it would be huge if the Raiders could secure back-to-back top four finishes.
Finals come early
With Cronulla no chance of moving up or down the table and if the Raiders fail to win or the Eels win, it will mean Canberra will host the Sharks again next week. A finals clash come early; it will be interesting to see how the teams approach this week with a potential meeting looming next week. Although somewhat a ‘dead rubber’ for the Sharks, they will want to make sure their counterparts are on high alert and will be keen to flex their muscles ahead of the finals.
In recent years, a fierce rivalry has developed between the two sides. Raiders fans will have nightmares thinking about the 2016 Qualifying Final where they went down narrowly and now club ‘legend’ Michael Ennis taunted the Raiders fans by mocking the Viking Clap. More recently, last year in Paul Gallen’s final home game, Aiden Sezer would sink three field goals to down the Sharks in a golden point thriller. If history is anything to go by, this clash has the potential to be an absolute cracker.
With Jarrod Croker being rested this week, it leaves a vacant spot for a new goalkicker. While Sam Williams is the obvious choice with an 83.3% succession rate, a few names have also entered the discussion. Nick Cotric has been touted as a potential goalkicker and surprisingly, Corey Harawira-Naera has been thrown the in equation with a goalkicking background. Siliva Havili was recently filmed slotting a goal from an impossible angle, albeit with a gusty wind favouring him.