Friday Night Lights

When I think of historical clashes between the Canberra Raiders and the Canterbury Bulldogs, the 1994 Grand Final immediately comes to mind. The Raiders beat the Doggies 36-12 on that day, but it's the list of players who were involved that day that really brings back the childhood memories.

Meninga, Daley, Stuart, Walters, Clyde, Lamb, Hetherington, Bella, Pay, Smith and Dymock: every single one of those names were or became stars in their own right, but they also made their mark upon the State Of Origin arena.

The round that falls before an Origin game is generally overshadowed by the hype of the interstate series. Players who are in the New South Wales and Queensland teams are rested, new ones are blooded in their place, and overall crowd numbers fall. Imagine if those teams of the 1994 Grand Final aimed up against each other this weekend with all those players on representative duty? It would be a contest weakened of talent.

Luckily for the Canberra Raiders and the Canterbury Bulldogs of 2011, both teams are relatively unaffected by Origin. Josh Morris and Jamal Idris will be out there in the centres for the Bulldogs; Canberra forward Brett White will be up against his opposite Aiden Tolman; and captains Alan Tongue and Andrew Ryan will be inspiring their respective teams like they do every week.

Unfortunately for the home team, sitting at the bottom of the ladder will not help them too much in getting a good attendance. Sure, beating the Melbourne Storm surprised many, and perhaps it is where the Raiders start to turn their season around, but two victories in ten games still don't sit pretty with the team or their fans.

Josh Dugan is out and so is Matt Orford. After Ricky Stuart copped a bagging for not picking front rower Tom Learoyd-Lahrs in the New South Wales side, Canberra coach David Furner hasn't chosen him in his side at all.

On the other hand, The Bulldogs fell to yet again to a top four team last weekend and will be looking to try and pick up their first in a month. They'll be hungry for a win, but with Canberra now having the scent of victory back in their nostrils it's shaping up to be a close contest.

Both teams want the win for different reasons that are equally as important for their current situations: the Raiders want to restore some pride and faith in their home crowd; the Bulldogs want to keep their position in the top eight and develop some momentum.

As we begin to edge towards the halfway mark of the season and step into the tumultuous Origin period, games like this one will prove to be vitally important come season's end. Let's hope that the game is played that way.