29 hours ago
Raiders v Dragons preview - 2017 Round 19
Hoodoo no more as both sides look to revive flagging fortunes
There was time where this fixture was marked must watch when Canberra held a hoodoo over the Dragons but as both sides tread in reverse, Friday night remains vital to kickstart a flailing season that is near life support - mostly for the Dragons who were flying high in the first month of the season and now only have one win in four against wooden spoon elect Newcastle side.
The old attacking frailties were on full display in their insipid loss to the Titans as the benching of Josh McCrone failed to allow Gareth Widdop the chance to flourish. St George Illawarra have breached 20 points in eight games this season but only once in the last month - losses to three of the bottom four sides also makes for depressing reading for red and white fans as once again, a hot start to the season may fizzle out into possibly missing the finals series.
For the Raiders - they have been close in quite a few contests this season - eight of their ten losses have been by less than a dozen points. That close margin has masked a few glaring weaknesses for the Raiders this season, Aiden Sezar has failed to kick on from last season and with fellow spine members Blake Austin and Jack Wighton struggling it leaves a lot of work for English import Josh Hodgson alongside Leipana to find the line for a blunt Raiders attack.
So Friday night creates a chance for both teams to find some fluency in their attack with the Dragons clinging onto seventh position as the Raiders sit eleventh a long way from an Edrick Lee error putting them into the Grand Final last season.
Last meeting: Round 10 2016 - Dragons 16 Raiders 12
Who to watch: Coming off the series defeat, Josh Dugan, who had a solid game for himself will be eager to get back on the field and get involved. If the fullback can provide the spark in an uninspiring Dragons backline might be the switch needed to get the Dragons back in the winner's circle.
In the home side - it would be easy to single out either Jordan Rapana and Joseph Leilua as the x-factor but Blake Austin has been a shell of his 2016 self. Fivetries and three assists is a poor return after his breakout 2016 - where the five-eighth scored eight himself and ran for over 1000 metres. That running game and someone hitting the line directly is what a wayward Raiders side needs if they are to continue the Dragons run of misery.
The favourite: The Raiders have the better backing despite their poor record of late, likely on the back of home ground advantage on what's set to be a freezing night in the home of fireworks.
My tip: It would have to be the Dragons for the sole fact that they have broken the perceived hoodoo in the nation's capital and a dejected Raiders side might be jaded after all the close losses this season. Dragons by 4.
1. Jack Wighton 2. Nick Cotric 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Joseph Leilua 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Blake Austin 7. Aidan Sezer 8. Junior Paulo 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Shannon Boyd 11. Josh Papalii 12. Elliot Whitehead 13. Iosia Soliola 14. Kurt Baptiste 15. Luke Bateman 16. Dave Taylor 17. Joseph Tapine
19. Josh Dugan 2. Nene Macdonald 4. Timoteo Lafai 5. Kurt Mann 1. Jason Nightingale 6. Gareth Widdop 7. Josh McCrone 8. Russell Packer 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Leeson Ah Mau 11. Tariq Sims 12. Joel Thompson 21. Paul Vaughan 3. Taane Milne 13. Jack de Belin 14. Jacob Host 16. Hame Sele
Referees: Grant Atkins, Chris Sutton; Sideline Officials: Jeff Younis, Rohan Best; Video Referees: Bernard Sutton, Ben Galea;