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The Canberra Raiders Cup competitions are back this weekend, with four blockbuster first grade clashes highlighting the first round of action.

Match of the Round: Belconnen United Sharks v Goulburn City Bulldogs, NSWRL HQ Bruce Saturday April 2nd

This weekend’s match of the round will feature the Belconnen United Sharks and the Goulburn City Bulldogs, with both sides looking to get their season rolling with a big win on Saturday afternoon.

After a tough 2021 where Belconnen couldn’t quite find consistency before the competition shut down, 2022 shapes up to be a massive year for the club.

The NRL experienced Shaun Fensom will line up alongside an abundance of talent, including Monaro Colts representative players Tevita Aroha-Tuinauvai and Sonny Tupuola, both of whom will be looking to translate their rep form into the first-grade competition.

According to first grade captain Matt Woolnough it has been a promising off season for Belconnen, culminating in a big final few weeks before the season kicks off.

“We have made a few progressions, added a couple of final touches to our preparations. We are looking good with the ball; it has been pretty impressive actually over the last few weeks,” Woolnough said.

“It has been building really nicely coming up to the first round.”

After a fifth-place finish in 2021 the Goulburn City Bulldogs are looking to go one better this season, with their eyes firmly set on a finals push in 2022.

The side have had some major turn over heading into their new campaign, losing the likes of Jesse Martin and Isaac Walker to other clubs.

The pair have however been replaced with both young guns and returning veterans, all of which will be big additions to the club.

Assistant coach Adam McLaurie has been pleased with the pre-season so far, and despite the player turnover is confident in the squad that he has assembled heading into round one this weekend.

“We have had a good off season. We have had some ex-players and some juniors come back this year after a couple of years off, which has really boosted the ranks for us,” he said.

“I think across the board we have a lot of local talent; we are relying on our locals this year which is good. We have mates who want to play with mates which is a good culture to have moving into round one and for the season ahead.”

Woden Valley Rams v Queanbeyan Blues, 3pm Saturday 2nd April at Phillip Oval

After a disappointing 2021 season collecting only two wins, Woden will be looking to start the new campaign off strong when they come up against the Queanbeyan Blues this weekend.

Following a big pre-season of recruiting including acquiring former Goulburn captain-coach Jesse Martin and representative centre Gideon Afemui, the Rams will be looking to turn their fortunes around this season.

Queanbeyan on the other hand will be looking to build off their shortened 2021 campaign, finishing just one point behind minor premiers Gungahlin in second.

With a points differential at the end of last year of plus 234, the Blues were leaders in both attack and defence and will need to be on top of both aspects when they come up against the rejuvenated Woden Valley side.

Under the leadership of player-coach Terry Campese they will be looking to get points on the board early, as they look to win their fifth grand final in nine seasons.

Tuggeranong Bushrangers v Queanbeyan Kangaroos, 3pm Saturday 2nd April at Greenway Oval

After an eighth-place finish in their shortened 2021 season, Tuggeranong Bushrangers will be looking to get their campaign off to the best possible start when they come up against Queanbeyan Kangaroos.

In response to last year’s disappointing results the side have recruited brilliantly, signing former NRL talent Zac Saddler from the Manly Sea Eagles and Darby Medlyn from the Canberra Raiders.

The pair, along with their strong core from last season, will be looking for a repeat of their first game in 2021, when they came out 36-12 winners over the Kangaroos.

For Queanbeyan, they will be looking to ride the wave of the momentum they built at the back end of last year, winning five of their last six matches.

With dummy-half Lochie Ingram steering them around along with a raft of other talent, a big first round performance is certainly not out of reach, having finished last season in third place after 15 rounds.

Gungahlin Bulls v West Belconnen Warriors, 3pm Saturday 2nd April at Gungahlin Enclosed Oval

Gungahlin Bulls will be looking to start the new season in the same way they ended 2021, with a win firmly in their sights as they come up against West Belconnen Warriors this weekend.

After two strong seasons the side will be looking to secure an elusive premiership, one that they lost in the 2020 Grand Final and had their chance taken away from them due to Covid-19 in 2021.

There has however been big turnover in the squad, with former NSW Cup player Kane Allan and ex-Goulburn City player Isaac Walker coming into the squad.

They will have big shoes to fill replacing the outgoing Zachary Patch and Tristan Eldridge, both of whom starred in the squad last year.

After a tough few seasons due to Covid, West Belconnen will be looking to bring in a new era with a victory this weekend at Gungahlin.

This transition will be headlined by the addition of two new head coaches, with Tim Sloman and Ryan McQueen taking the helm in 2022.

They certainly have the base to build a successful season upon, with the Warriors ending a shortened 2021 season in fourth place.

Acknowledgement of Country

Canberra Raiders respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.