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Forward thinking: Raider middles to continue rotation suggestions

Raiders forward Ryan Sutton says the club's squadron of middle forwards will continue plotting potential rotations to suggest to coach Ricky Stuart after the policy was successfully trialled last year.

Through 2020 it was not uncommon to see the likes of Josh Papalii or Hudson Young wearing the No.8 or No.13 jersey on the bench at kick-off while Sutton or Joe Tapine ran out to start the game in jersey 15 or 16.

Those changes were initiated by the playing group when they believed a switch could help their performance and Stuart was happy to oblige – a tactic that could continue this year even with a much bigger cohort of available middles jostling for spots with Ryan James joining and Corey Horsburgh, Emre Guler and Sutton all back from injury.

"That's something that Paps and Sia (Soliola) spoke about," Sutton said.

"Stick's got a lot on his mind as is so if us as middles can come and talk to each other about what we want to do on the day and what's best for the team I think that's good. I think you'll see a bit of a change throughout the year.

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"We've got middles that can start and middles that can come off the bench but whether Paps or Taps comes off the bench or me, we can do it.

"We've got versatility in our middles and with Taps and Paps in there getting us off to a good start we know we've got to go in there and take it to another level."

Sutton believes he will be well-equipped to handle the more frantic pace of the NRL this year under the new rules despite the shorter pre-season and coming off last year's season-ending MCL injury.

"It made me realise over the off-season that I probably do a bit too much preparing for the year," he said.

"This year is the only year I've had where I've switched off completely.

"Me and my girlfriend went away to the Whitsundays and literally just switched off and it gave me a really good motive going into the year.

"I've just got to look after my body more, prepare as best I can and I've come back this year into the pre-season in the best condition I've been in a long time so hopefully the back end of the year I can get rid of those nasty injuries and the drop in performance and get through to the finals."

Sutton's performance against Wests Tigers and that of new recruit Ryan James drew praise from veteran back-rower Elliott Whitehead.

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"I thought both Ryans came on and got us going straight forward, got us on that front foot that we needed to have," Whitehead said.

"It was two solid performances from both of them. I'm sure they'll be there this week and they'll be doing the same job for us."

Whitehead was also impressed by Hudson Young's first game as John Bateman's edge forward replacement.

"I taught him everything over the off-season!" Whitehead laughed.

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"He's only played there a few times but he's been working really hard and it paid off for him at the weekend. He's a good kid who wants to work hard and concentrate and hopefully keep that spot.

"He's a powerful kid, he's one of the strongest here at the club, he's dedicated to try and keep that position and if he keeps playing like he is I don't see why he won't."

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