The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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Canberra travel to the Showground this week to take on the premiership leading Bulldogs in what is a must win game for the Raiders.
Canberra have enjoyed great success against the Bulldogs in Sydney in recent years with the highlight being the Raiders 32-0 demolition of the Bulldogs last year. Canberra have close to a full strength team on the paddock whereas the Bulldogs have three players (Steve Price, Travis Norton, Darren Smith) on Origin duty, all for Queensland. Bulldogs five eighth, Braith Anasta will be out to prove a point after being axed from the New South Wales side for game three but the Raiders need to prove themselves against quality opposition if they are to make the semi finals, after missing out last year.
Even without the players on Origin duty, the Bulldogs still have a formidable lineup and the battle of the forwards should be enthralling with the Raiders starting to gain some respect over the last couple of weeks with Ruben Wiki playing some of the best football of his career and captain Simon Woolford, who has produced some sparkling form over the last month to also be back at his best.
The key matchups will be the battle of the halves with Sherwin and Anasta versus Finch and McLinden. Canberra have a much faster set of halves but are also unpredictable at times whereas the Bulldogs halves play percentage football and are very patient in their approach.
If Canberra give the Dogs backs room to move, Vagana and Talau will run rings around them. Canberra also need to be focused for the entire eighty minutes as the Raiders have shown they have a tendency to switch off and “clock watch” when they hit the lead, usually with disastrous results as was the case last week, when the Raiders had an early lead against the Sharks, only to play catchup footy for the last twenty minutes and ultimately lose the game in the last minute, much to the frustration of the Raiders faithful.
Canberra can climb into the top eight with a victory on Saturday afternoon whereas the Bulldogs can keep a one point break on the fieldif other results go as expected.
Canberra by 8 and a win to get their season back on track.
CANTERBURY BULLDOGS vs CANBERRA RAIDERS Sat Jun 22, Sydney Showground, 5.30pm
BULLDOGS: Luke Patten, Hazem El Masri, Nigel Vagana, Willie Talau, Matt Utai, Braith Anasta, Brent Sherwin, Glen Hughes (c), Steve Reardon, Jamie Feeney, Willie Mason, Corey Hughes, Paul Rauhihi. Subs: Adam Perry, Tony Grimaldi, Nathan Sologinkin, Glenn Hall.
RAIDERS: Clinton Schifcofske, Michael Robertson, Jason Croker, Phil Graham, Jamaal Lolesi, Mark McLinden, Brett Finch, Alan Tongue, Michael Hodgson, Terry Martin, Ryan O'Hara, Simon Woolford (c), Ruben Wiki. Subs: Darren Porter, Troy Thompson, Mark Bryant, Tyran Smith, Todd Payten (one to be omitted).
Referee: Paul Simpkins FootyTAB: Raiders 13.5 SportsTAB: Bulldogs $1.20, Raiders $4.15