Bulldogs v Raiders preview

Embed from Getty Images
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v Canberra Raiders Saturday 7:35pm at Stadium Australia

A fast-starting team on the slide to face a serious challenge against the cellar dwellers.

After one win from their first six games, the Canterbury Bulldogs have won two of their last five (but don't call it a comeback). It is however a record that's better than that of the Canberra Raiders from the last five weeks, as they've lost four of five.

The Melbourne Storm left Belmore last week with a 28-6 win, which put to rest any positive Bulldogs momentum.

Coach Dean Pay continues to noticeably tinker with the rotation and selection of his players. Attacking weapon Rhyse Martin, an 80-minute player in his rookie season has seen no more than 30 minutes a game in the last two weeks. Corey Harawira-Naera played more than 72 minutes in five straight encounters but has played 64 and 49 minutes respectively in the last two games.

Ofahiki Ogden gets the start at prop for Queensland Origin forward Dylan Napa. Raymond Faitala-Mariner is to fill the vacant bench spot left by Ogden.

Former first-grade regulars Michael Lichaa, Lachlan Lewis, Kerrod Holland and Adam Elliott make up the reserves.

A Bulldogs win in this clash could take them off the bottom of the ladder and as high as 14th.

The Canberra Raiders have recorded three-straight losses of six points or less, with two of these matches at home, and it could have brought on some flashbacks from 2018 for their fans.

What ultimately cost the Raiders of a top eight finish last season was their inability to win close games. In the eleven matches they played with a final margin of six points or less, Canberra lost eight.

A hot start to the 2019 season for the Raiders provided separation from the competition on the ladder they can no longer use.

They're in fifth place now with 12 competition points, but are one of four teams with six wins after eleven rounds and Canberra is one loss away from five teams on 10 competition points.

With a lot of international footballers in their best 17 players, this middle part of the season overshadowed by State of Origin is where their advantage lies for increasing their win tally.

Or at least it was thought they should have the advantage, because injuries are testing the depth at the Raiders.

Unavailable through injury is Jordan Rapana (PCL strain - round 13-14), John Bateman (eye socket - round 15-17), Josh Hodgson (thumb - round 17-18) and Joseph Leilua (neck - season).

Rewarded with State of Origin selection is Josh Papalii, Nick Cotric and Jack Wighton.

Ricky Stuart has selected Aidan Sezer at five-eighth to play his second NRL game of 2019, Sebastian Kris at left centre for his second NRL match, Cory Horsburgh to start in place of Papalii, Siliva Havilii starting for Josh Hodgson, Joe Tapine into the starting second-row, Ryan Sutton goes back to the bench and Tom Starling is a bench hooker to make his NRL debut.

Last meeting: Round 17 2018 - Bulldogs 28 Raiders 32

This match will go down as ‘The Rhyse Martin show'. The lock forward scored a hat-trick and with the goal kicking duties managed to score 24 points. Canterbury led 28-20 with three minutes to go, then two late tries to Tapine and Leilua flipped the result.

Who to watch: Kieran Foran made a quick recovery from an ankle injury three weeks ago and put on a promising display in an away win against the Gold Coast Titans in round 10. If Foran can refocus after a difficult matchup against the Melbourne Storm last week, he could make a great impact in this clash. Look for Foran to get Martin the ball near the tryline for impact on a tiring defence and to run after offloads from Corey Harawira-Naera.

Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad's had a couple of sub-par weeks in attack as he's come up against some of the NRL's best defenders. Add to that the constant reshuffling of players in his side, it's made Nicoll-Klokstad's job harder. Through all the footy this year there's no evidence he's lacked effort, and a big reward for effort could be on offer in this clash if Bulldogs continue to show their defensive woes. Sans Rapana, Leilua, Cotric, Hodgson and Wighton the team will look for the young fullback in the hope he has a big game.

The favourite: The Canberra Raiders have been tagged as a clear favourite. The team from the nation's capital has one win in their last five matches, which included a six-point loss to the Cowboys last week, a four-point loss to South Sydney Rabbitohs in round 10 and a six-point loss to the Sydney Roosters in round nine. They've still earned fifth spot on the ladder. Hardly ever will a bottom of the ladder side be favourites in any clash.

My tip: The stage is set for a stronger performance from the Bulldogs. Canberra has lots of first-grade quality players that aren't eligible for State of Origin and unfortunately injuries have sidelined most of that talent. With Canterbury at home, following a hiding from the Melbourne Storm and sitting on the bottom of the ladder, they won't get many better opportunities to win in 2019. Bulldogs by 10.

1. Nick Meaney 2. Christian Crichton 3. Marcelo Montoya 4. Will Hopoate 5. Reimis Smith 6. Kieran Foran 7. Jack Cogger 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Ofahiki Ogden 11. Josh Jackson 23. Adam Elliott 15. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 13. Chris Smith 14. Rhyse Martin 16. Danny Fualalo 17. Sauaso Sue

1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Bailey Simonsson 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Sebastian Kris 5. Michael Oldfield 6. Aidan Sezer 7. Sam Williams 8. Corey Horsburgh 9. Siliva Havili 10. Dunamis Lui 11. Joseph Tapine 12. Elliott Whitehead 21. John Bateman 13. Hudson Young 14. Tom Starling 16. Iosia Soliola 17. Ryan Sutton

Referees: Grant Atkins, Dave Munro; Sideline Officials: Tim Roby, Belinda Sharpe; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy, Ben Lowe;

Follow all the action LIVE in our Match Centre