Round 20: Warriors v Raiders preview
Warriors fight to keep top eight dream alive
Suffering the referees' ire to go down 24-22 to Parramatta in a match littered with contentious calls and a 9-2 penalty count in the Eels favour, coach Stephen Kearney will be demanding greater accountability from his players to ensure the result is determined through their actions.
Sitting on the precipice of finals contention in 12th position, the Warriors will be buoyed by back-to-back wins over the Raiders last season, along with holding a 63 per cent success rate from 19 clashes in Auckland dating back to 1995.
Boosted by the return of Kodi Nikorima from an ankle injury, Chanel Harris-Tavita drops back to the bench in a reshuffle that sees Adam Keighran relegated to the extended squad. With Issac Luke incurring a three-match ban after failing to have his dangerous throw charge downgraded, Karl Lawton is set to come into the squad for his first match in a month.
Remaining in fourth position after accounting for the Panthers, 30-18, last Sunday, the Canberra Raiders will look to guarantee a place in the finals with a win on Friday night.
Chasing four straight wins for the first time since the opening rounds, the match will mark a significant milestone for Josh Hodgson, with the English hooker bringing up 100 appearances in the NRL, while unsung prop Dunamis Lui will make his 50th appearance for the club off the bench.
Unchanged for the third week in succession, a win could see the Raiders finish the round as high as second should other results go their way.
Who to watch: Proving himself to be the most promising of the young playmakers partnered alongside Blake Green this season, Chanel Harris-Tavita will be looking to ensure his place in the NRL team for the remainder of 2019. Playing eight matches in his rookie year - predominantly at five-eighth and as an impact utility - the 20-year-old former Junior Kiwis star looks set to rival Kodi Nikorima for a starting position in the future, with his goal kicking and willingness to take on the line providing Stephen Kearney with plenty to ponder. Earning a deserved first grade recall following a starring performance for Samoa during the representative weekend, look for Harris-Tavita to provide the Warriors with a valuable spark on Friday night as they strive to assert their dominance over the Raiders in Auckland.
Facing off against his former club for the first time on Friday evening, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad will be out to prove his class in a key personal duel. Playing seven matches exclusively on the wing for the Warriors two years ago, the 24-year-old has been a revelation at fullback this season, running for 3,130 metres to rank third in the league behind former teammates Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Ken Maumalo. Contracted across the Tasman up until February before being thrown an opportunity by Ricky Stuart, the development shown by the Cook Islands international has transformed the Raiders into a team bound for September for the first time in three years. Facing off against Tuivasa-Sheck - the reigning Dally M medallist - look for Nicoll-Klokstad to prove a constant threat as he presses his case for an upgraded deal and higher representative honours in the post-season.