2 days ago
The Canberra Raiders have named five new faces in the starting side for their NRL season-opener against the Newcastle Knights at Canberra Stadium on Saturday.
Jason Smith, Matt Adamson, Craig Frawley and David Howell will all make their Raiders debuts, while halfback Lincoln Withers will play his first NRL match with the club since leaving Canberra at the end of 2000.
While Raiders coach Matt Elliott has named his big off-season recruits, he said selections had been based on pre-season form, not reputation.
Former Australian Test player Jason Smith only had one opportunity to impress in the pre-season match, against the Brisbane Broncos. Smith set up two tries in the first half, enough to convince Elliott he will be an asset in 2005.
?He had a massive impact on the team that night and his vision on the field is outstanding,? Elliott said.
?These selections have been based on trial form ? pure and simple. Even if you look at our bench, guys like Kris Kahler and Alan Tongue gave me no choice but to select them in this side. Their pre-season form demanded it. There?s a lot of unlucky Raiders players who will be in Premier League this week.?
The hottest competition for spots was in the outside backs. Former Brisbane Broncos flyer Craig Frawley will partner Adam Mogg in the centres, while David Howell has been called-up to start on the wing along with Phil Graham.
?There?s a lot of versatility and strike there,? Elliott said. ?All four of those guys would like to play in the centres, so we might be able to switch them around during matches if we need to.?
The Raiders are injury-free, Jason Croker and Tyran Smith the only players unavailable because of suspension. Croker is available to return in Round 3, while Smith?s suspension finishes by Round 5.
Promising young prop Michael Weyman has also recovered from the minor wrist injury he suffered in the final trial match against the Wests Tigers. The former Australian Schoolboys captain will start on the bench.
?I?m very excited because if we can get him to string half-a-dozen games together, we?re going to find out how good he really is,? Elliott said.
RAIDERS V NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS Canberra Stadium Saturday, March 19, at 5.30pm
1. CLINTON SCHIFCOFSKE 2. PHIL GRAHAM 3. CRAIG FRAWLEY 4. ADAM MOGG 5. DAVID HOWELL 6. JASON SMITH 7. LINCOLN WITHERS 8. RYAN O?HARA 9. SIMON WOOLFORD 10. TROY THOMPSON 11. MATT ADAMSON 12. IAN HINDMARSH 13. MICHAEL HODGSON
14. MICHAEL WEYMAN 15. KRIS KAHLER 16. ALAN TONGUE 17. MATT GAFA