There is plenty to look forward to this weekend as the first round of finals kicks off. The Canberra Raiders will go head to head with the Cronulla Sharks for the second week in a row and here are six things to look forward to.
Welcome to finals footy!
There's no denying that with finals footy, comes a whole new level of rugby league. There may only be seven days between their last battle against each other, but you can expect an entirely different match this time around. With big names returning to the field for both sides; the intensity has risen, the stakes are higher, and everybody is gunning for a spot in the grand final.
The last time the Raiders and Sharks met in the finals was back in 2016 at GIO Stadium, when the Sharks managed to get up on the Raiders by two points, before going on to win the premiership. The Raiders will be fighting to the finish line to avoid history repeating itself.
The big boys are back
Last week, coach Ricky Stuart opted to rest his regular starting squad, busting open the doors for the next generation of Raiders to have a run. The young-guns did the Green Machine proud, taking down the Sharks 38-28. Returning to the field rested and ready, will be 10 of the Raiders key players. The boys will be looking to do as the young ones did and defeat the Sharks to secure the Raiders' fourth straight win.
Joint winners of the 2020 Meninga Medal, Josh Papalii, and Jack Wighton return to the field after a week of rest and are ready to get back to where they left off. The two have had outstanding seasons, playing an instrumental role in getting the Raiders to the finals. Both men will be proudly lacing up the boots this week and are itching to make an impact on finals. From Wighton’s ability to create something out of nothing to Papalii’s powerhouse strength to crack the defensive line, the two have been unstoppable this season.
50th Finals appearance
Saturday’s match will be the green machine’s 50th appearance in finals. In total, the Raiders have won 23 of those games and lost 26. The green machine's first finals appearance came in 1984 and since then they have finished runners-up three times while claiming three premierships.
A sell-out crowd
With government restrictions easing and stadium capacity increasing, it'll be a sea of green welcoming the Green Machine back to GIO Stadium on Saturday. It'll be the biggest home crowd that the Raiders have been able to run out for since the return of the NRL season. With all 9600 tickets selling out in as little as 24hours, the atmosphere will be electric, and the Viking Clap will be rocking the stands.
There'll be no shortage of blockbuster action at GIO Stadium on Saturday, with ticket holders getting three games for the price of one. Saturday will see the 2020 NRLW season commencing with plenty of big talent set to take the field.
Do or Die
Both teams will need to dig deep if they're to keep the hopes of a premiership alive. It’s all on the line, in this must-win match for both teams. The winner will face-off with the loser of Friday's game between Penrith and Roosters, as the race to the Grand Final continues.