The Canberra Raiders will kick off their quest for the 2021 NRL premiership against the Wests Tigers at 4:05 pm this Sunday at GIO stadium.
Despite a heavy injury toll, the Raiders finished last season one game away from the grand final. This season - with a healthy squad and plenty of depth - they will be aiming to be premiers for the first time since 1994.
The Wests Tigers had a tumultuous 2020 finishing 11th. The Tigers struggled to find consistency with their spine combinations and were unable to close out tight games.
Fullback for Raiders is number 1 Charnze Nicoll-KlokstadFullback for Wests Tigers is number 1 Daine Laurie
Winger for Raiders is number 2 Bailey SimonssonWinger for Wests Tigers is number 2 David Nofoaluma
Centre for Raiders is number 3 Sebastian KrisCentre for Wests Tigers is number 3 James Roberts
Centre for Raiders is number 4 Curtis ScottCentre for Wests Tigers is number 4 Joseph Leilua
Winger for Raiders is number 5 Jordan RapanaWinger for Wests Tigers is number 5 Asu Kepaoa
Five-Eighth for Raiders is number 6 Jack WightonFive-Eighth for Wests Tigers is number 6 Moses Mbye
Halfback for Raiders is number 7 George WilliamsHalfback for Wests Tigers is number 7 Luke Brooks
Prop for Raiders is number 8 Josh PapaliiProp for Wests Tigers is number 8 James Tamou
Hooker for Raiders is number 9 Josh HodgsonHooker for Wests Tigers is number 9 Jacob Liddle
Prop for Raiders is number 10 Dunamis LuiProp for Wests Tigers is number 10 Joe Ofahengaue
2nd Row for Raiders is number 11 Hudson Young2nd Row for Wests Tigers is number 11 Luke Garner
2nd Row for Raiders is number 12 Elliott Whitehead2nd Row for Wests Tigers is number 12 Luciano Leilua
Lock for Raiders is number 13 Joseph TapineLock for Wests Tigers is number 13 Alex Twal
Interchange for Raiders is number 14 Siliva HaviliInterchange for Wests Tigers is number 14 Tommy Talau
Interchange for Raiders is number 15 Ryan SuttonInterchange for Wests Tigers is number 15 Thomas Mikaele
Interchange for Raiders is number 16 Iosia SoliolaInterchange for Wests Tigers is number 16 Stefano Utoikamanu
Interchange for Raiders is number 17 Ryan JamesInterchange for Wests Tigers is number 17 Russell Packer
- Referee: Gerard Sutton
- Touch Judge: Dave Munro
- Touch Judge: Drew Oultram
- Senior Review Official: Ashley Klein
Both teams showed promise in their NRL trial matches. In the Raiders' trial against the Roosters, Josh Hodgson showed why he is one of the best hookers in the game. In only 40 minutes of footy, he set up two tries and made a line-break running at full stride - putting to rest any concerns about his ACL.
Young: I never wanted to go anywhere else
The Tigers thrashed the Sea Eagles 58-18 during their last trial match. Young gun, Daine Laurie was impressive at fullback and looks to be ready to step into first grade this season.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has named a strong side for their first outing. Queensland Origin props, Josh Papalii and Dunamis Lui anchor the forward pack, while Dally M medalist, Jack Wighton caps off an impressive spine of Hodgson, George Williams and Nicoll-Klokstad. Ryan James will become Raider #374 when he makes his club debut off the bench.
The Tigers have named new recruits James Tamou and Joe Ofahengaue as starting props and a halves pairing of Moses Mybe and Luke Brooks. With Adam Doueihi still suspended for a shoulder charge, Daine Laurie will start at fullback.
Last Time They Met
The Raiders beat the Tigers 14-6 in round 5, 2020 during a washed-out affair at Campletown Sports Stadium.
Josh Papalii v James Tamou
Papalii and Tamou will both be integral to their team’s success on Sunday. These props provide the momentum to get their teams on the front foot.
Josh Papalii has been one of the best props in the NRL over the last two seasons. In 2020 he consistently got the raiders on the front foot with his strong performances. He averaged 148 meters per game, with 44 tackle breaks and 1,208 post-contact meters. Papalii can also turn the momentum of a game with his bone-rattling defence.
James Tamou had his best year since 2015 with the Panthers last year on their push to the grand final. The Tigers will be wanting the experienced Origin and Australian prop to provide their team with the same discipline and toughness he brought to Panthers.
Curtis Scott v Joey Leilua
Both these strike centres can break open the game for the team on Sunday and will be looking to regain their best form.
Joey Leilua returns to Canberra for the first time as a Tiger, and the Raiders know all too well his destructive ball running ability. While 2020 was an up and down year for Joey, on his best day he can be almost unstoppable - breaking through tackles and offloading the ball at will.
Curtis Scott will have the opportunity to play outside George Willams and Hudson Young, in a potentially explosive right edge. Scott’s speed and power, combined with Williams' ball-playing ability could see Scott slicing through the Tiger’s left edge.
Hudson Young v Luciano Leilua
Hudson Young and Luciano Lelia both had breakout seasons last year and will be looking to get even better in 2021.
With the game set to speed up in 2021, these damaging ball runners will be looking to take advantage of fatiguing defences. Young has an opportunity to cement his role on the Raiders' right edge after the departure of John Bateman.
Luciano, much like his brother Joey has all the qualities of a game-breaking NRL star - size strength and skill are in abundance. Last year he was one of the Tigers’ best players, and they will need him at his best to win.
Matt Elkins answers questions regarding fans at GIO Stadium
Head to Head
The Raiders and the Wests Tigers have clashed 38 times, with both teams winning 19 and a draw. In previous years the Raiders have been the better team, not having lost to the Tigers since 2018.