The Canberra Raiders will travel to AAMI Park this Saturday to take on the Melbourne Storm in a must-win elimination final.
The Raiders finished eighth on the NRL ladder this season thanks to their incredible run of form over the past few months, winning 12 their past 16 matches.
Part of that run includes the last two weeks in which the Raiders have proven themselves as a true contender in this year's finals race, after defeating the Sea Eagles 48-6 and Tigers 56-10.
The Raiders have made just two changes to last week's winning side, welcoming back Jack Wighton and Elliott Whitehead who were rested in the final game of the regular season.
Meanwhile, the Storm finished fifth in 2022 after missing out on the top four, due to their loss against the Eels in the final round of the regular season.
Both sides have proven throughout the regular season that they deserve to feature in this year's finals series and will be looking to make history by being the first team to win a premiership from outside the top four.
The winner of Saturday’s match will advance to a semi final next week where they will play the loser of Friday night's qualifying final between the Penrith Panthers and the Parramatta Eels.
These two teams have become fairly familiar with one another over the past few seasons and we are set for another blockbuster with the loser being sent home.
Fullback for Storm is number 1 Nick MeaneyFullback for Raiders is number 1 Xavier Savage
Winger for Storm is number 2 David NofoalumaWinger for Raiders is number 2 Nick Cotric
Centre for Storm is number 3 Marion SeveCentre for Raiders is number 3 Matthew Timoko
Centre for Storm is number 4 Justin OlamCentre for Raiders is number 4 Sebastian Kris
Winger for Storm is number 5 Xavier CoatesWinger for Raiders is number 5 Jordan Rapana
Five-Eighth for Storm is number 6 Cameron MunsterFive-Eighth for Raiders is number 6 Jack Wighton
Halfback for Storm is number 7 Jahrome HughesHalfback for Raiders is number 7 Jamal Fogarty
Prop for Storm is number 8 Jesse BromwichProp for Raiders is number 8 Josh Papali'i
Hooker for Storm is number 9 Harry GrantHooker for Raiders is number 9 Zac Woolford
Prop for Storm is number 10 Nelson Asofa-SolomonaProp for Raiders is number 10 Joseph Tapine
2nd Row for Storm is number 12 Kenneath Bromwich2nd Row for Raiders is number 11 Hudson Young
2nd Row for Storm is number 15 Tui Kamikamica2nd Row for Raiders is number 12 Elliott Whitehead
Lock for Storm is number 14 Brandon SmithLock for Raiders is number 13 Adam Elliott
Interchange for Storm is number 11 Felise KaufusiInterchange for Raiders is number 14 Tom Starling
Interchange for Storm is number 13 Josh KingInterchange for Raiders is number 15 Emre Guler
Interchange for Storm is number 16 Trent LoieroInterchange for Raiders is number 16 Corey Horsburgh
Interchange for Storm is number 17 Chris LewisInterchange for Raiders is number 17 Corey Harawira-Naera
Replacement for Storm is number 18 Young TonumaipeaReplacement for Raiders is number 18 Albert Hopoate
- Referee: Grant Atkins
- Touch Judge: Drew Oultram
- Touch Judge: Liam Kennedy
- Senior Review Official: Ashley Klein
Last Time They Met
The Raiders and Storm met twice in 2022, with both sides picking up a win on the road. It was their most recent meeting which saw the Raiders secure a 20-16 win at AAMI Park in Round 18, which included that remarkable try from James Schiller.
Key Match Ups
Joseph Tapine vs Nelson Asofa-Solomona
Forwards win matches is never a more true saying than in the big games, and this weekend will be no different as two of the season's best props go head to head in Joseph Tapine and Nelson Asofa-Solomona.
It was one phenomenal season for Tapine who established himself as the best forward in the competition, at least statistically. Amongst forwards in 2022, Tapine finished first in running metres, first in post-contact metres and third in offloads. Tapine also proved himself as a beast in defence just as much as he is in attack, averaging 29 tackles per game with an efficiency of 95%.
However, Nelson Asofa-Solomona has also put his hand up to be regarded as one of the best forwards in the competition, especially since moving into the starting side. After spending most of his career as an impact player off the bench, the New Zealand international has become one of the Storm’s biggest game breakers in their run home to the finals.
Both of these men will see this as a great opportunity to make a statement to the competition and will be doing everything they can to advance to the semi finals next weekend.
Nick Cotric vs David Nofoaluma
Wingers have become so important in the modern game and both Nick Cotric and David Nofoaluma will be wanting to make a statement as they return to finals football.
Cotric has been great for the Raiders since returning this season and will be relishing his return to finals football, where he has proven why he is regarded as one of the premier wingers.
Despite missing some of the season through injuries and suspensions it was still a great season for the 23-year-old who managed to score seven tries in 19 appearances.
Nofoaluma has been a great mid-season acquisition for the Storm and will be more than excited ahead of his first finals series. Since debuting for the Storm in Round 21, Nofoaluma has scored four tries, broken 31 tackles and is averaging over 100 running metres.
Both of these wingers are great in defence, carrying the ball out of their own end and finishing in the corner. As good as they are in attack, whoever can produce the more crucial defensive reads will go a long way in earning their side a finals win.
Tom Starling vs Brandon Smith
Both Tom Starling and Brandon Smith have proven just as damaging off the bench as they are starting and it could be a moment of brilliance from either utility who can win the match on Saturday.
Starling has proven one of the most reliable utilities in the competition as he has managed to create great combinations with Josh Hodgson, Siliva Havili and now Zac Woolford. Starling is one of the fastest players in the NRL and that's what makes his running game so dangerous for oppositions and has led to him creating six try assists, four line breaks and 30 tackle breaks.
After winning the Dally M Hooker of the Year in 2021, Smith has seen a return to the bench where he has shined since his debut. The Roosters bound 26-year-old can play anywhere in the forwards and is regarded as one of the best players in all positions thanks to his work ethic and damaging ball carries.
Both of these utilities provide different strengths to their respective sides and could be the difference when they run onto the field this Saturday.
Head to Head
The Raiders and Storm have met 51 times, with the Storm winning 36 of those meetings. However, the Raiders have enjoyed a great record over the Storm recently, which includes winning their last four matches at AAMI Park.