Round 19: Raiders v Warriors preview
Top four dream still alive in Canberra, Warriors playing for pride
Season's don't get any crazier than the 2020 NRL season. With two rounds remaining, the top 8 is confirmed, but the battle for positions is still very much alive. Canberra look to give their hopes for a top 4 finish a boost on Sunday afternoon against a New Zealand Warriors side who has been in the fight each and every week. However, their season is now confirmed to not be going past the regular season and will no doubt be looking towards a return home. They won't want to drop their bundle just yet though and will be looking to keep everyone's admiration of their sacrifice high by making for a good game against one of the competition's best teams.
Following a big 29-point win over the Dragons last weekend, coach Ricky Stuart has named only one change to the seventeen. Impressive rookie hooker Tom Starling has dropped back to the bench for Siliva Havili who will start instead.
The Warriors faced the Cronulla Sharks last weekend and lost in heartbreaking fashion, going down just minutes before fulltime and knocking them out of finals contention in the process. Interim coach Todd Payten, who is poised for a move to the North Queensland Cowboys to take up a head coaching job, has made a number of changes for the upcoming clash with the Raiders. Hayze Perham, who started at centre last week, will be moved to the wing in place of George Jennings. Adam Keighran will move into the centres. Rookie Jamayne Taunoa-Brown is out and will be replaced by Lachlan Burr. Eliesa Katoa comes onto the bench, as does Tom Ale, who cover Daniel Alvaro's loss.
Who to watch: When talking about the Raiders and who to watch, it's hard to go past star prop forward Josh Papalii, who did a tremendous job for his team last week despite only playing the first half of football due to an AC joint injury. Against a fairly inexperienced Warriors forward pack, look for Papalii to chew up the metres and get through plenty of work to inspire his side.
For the Warriors, inspirational skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck did all that he could for his side last week against Cronulla. Look for him to lead the side and inspire them despite them now being out of finals contention. His footwork and involvement in the Warriors attack through the middle will no doubt move the Raiders' big forwards around and could possibly shake things up a bit.
The favourite: The favourite for this game is the home side, the Canberra Raiders.
My tip: The Raiders come into this game with a little more reason for motivation with their top four hopes on the line. The Warriors now can't make the finals and going down to Canberra to play an in-form Raiders outfit will be a tough assignment to face. Expect the Warriors to put up a fight and make it as difficult as possible for their opposition as usual. The Raiders should though, be able to do enough to win. Raiders by 14.