Round 1: Raiders v Titans preview
After the agony of falling painfully short of the 2019 NRL premiership title, the Raiders aim to start it all again and go one better - and to start it's a date with the wooden spooners.
On paper, Canberra couldn't have asked for a better opening round match-up. Whether that matches what we see on the park remains to be seen on Friday night, but either way we're in for an intriguing contest.
There are a bunch of interesting stats here - the first being last year's emphatic 21-0 opening round win by the Raiders over the Titans at Robina. This time these two open the season again but in far cooler climes - Canberra's own GIO Stadium.
That's where another quirky stat comes in, with the Raiders only having won five of 12 matches at the Battye Street venue in 2019 despite a stunning run all the way to October.
Granted - those five home wins are more overall wins that the Titans could manage in a lacklustre 2019 campaign, but the slate is indeed wiped clean for a new season and for a few weeks at least, every team has some kind of hope.
Canberra have named centre Curtis Scott after the NRL cleared him to play in the wake of police assault charges slapped on him in January. He'll make his Raiders debut alongside half George Williams who made the off-season move from the UK to replace Aidan Sezer, who's currently guiding a resurgent Huddersfield to a top five spot in the Super League. John Bateman's injury means that Corey Horsburgh gets first shot at the vacant back-row slot, while there is no Ryan Sutton OR Hudson Young - both serving suspensions.
Gold Coast's playing stocks are troubled too, with no Keegan Hipgrave, Shannon Boyd or Ryan James. AJ Brimson and Moeaki Fotuaika are also unlikely starters, both named on the reserves list as they look to recover from injury. New signing Sam Lisone will start up front, while Phillip Sami is fullback in Brimson's expected absence. Bryce Cartwright meanwhile looks to have first dibs on a second-row gig after a patchy last few seasons.
Across 23 meetings, the Titans hold a slender 12-11 advantage, although that flips when narrowed down to matches only in Canberra, with the Raiders recording 6 wins to 4.
Who to watch: Jack Wighton overcame a rocky start to 2019 to finish the season as a Grand Final five-eighth and Clive Churchill Medal winner (albeit in a losing side) - how he adjusts to a change in halves partner over the off-season will go a long way to seeing how the Raiders' season pans out. The Green Machine have often struggled for halves consistency and the departure of Sezer will be an interesting one to see filled by George Williams.
2019 was the opposite for Ash Taylor - things started relatively promising for the enigmatic halfback before personal issues and injury forced him from the playing field for much of the year. Lacing up for just 10 games, he'll be keen to get a full season under his belt and provide the Gold Coast side the consistency on the field it so badly needs to firstly shrug off the wooden spoon - and possibly surge into finals contention.
My tip: It's a bit early in the season to be using the term "Banana Peel Game" but this certainly shapes as one for the Green Machine. Canberra have had enough distractions in the pre-season and will be keen to focus on the footy, but the Titans won't be making it easy. Raiders by 8.
Canberra Raiders Form Guide
Yet to play this season
Canberra Raiders Upcoming Games
Gold Coast Titans Form Guide
Yet to play this season