2021 NRLW Playing Squads
5 months ago | LeagueUnlimited Media
The Canberra Raiders entered the 2021 season with premiership ambitions.
After just seven rounds though they look like anything but title contenders and in desperate need of a character-building victory.
Fortunately for Ricky Stuart, all he has to do is put a replay of Canberra's last meeting against this week's opposition.
"We always used the word 'proud'. It's easy to say after you win. But proud of the heart they showed tonight," Stuart said after the Raiders' 18-12 win over the Rabbitohs in Round 12 last season.
Touching on the "character" of the club, Stuart lauded how his players were able to hold South Sydney to just two tries despite him only being able to name 20 players in Tuesday's team list.
Then Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad went down in the game itself.
Stuart has ‘rested' front rower Josh Papalii in a major change this week while Seb Kris starts for the injured Jarrod Croker.
It has been quite a long time since that inspired win over Souths, with Canberra instead blasted for an "embarrassing" display against North Queensland last week.
The Rabbitohs also were highly-touted premiership chances this year but under the guidance of Wayne Bennett they have lived up to expectations so far.
Last week against in a 40-30 comeback win against the Titans it all started with Benji Marshall - a flashy playmaker "no one wanted."
Marshall was at his scheming best in attack, playing with a tempo similar to that of the much younger Nathan Cleary and dictating terms to ease pressure on Adam Reynolds.
"I keep reading about clubs that are going to have overhauls of players...here's a guy that nobody wanted," Bennett said of Marshall post-game.
"He has been wonderful for us - we love having him and he loves playing for us. You can't have a better relationship than that."
Keaon Koloamatangi also played a starring role in helping the Rabbitohs overcome a 24-10 deficit and storm home against the Gold Coast.
The challenge now will be to back it up in the nation's capital.
Last meeting: Round 11 2020 - Raiders 18 Rabbitohs 12
Who to watch: There are a lot of interesting match-ups this week but let's focus on the battle of the No. 9s. So much has been made in recent weeks of Josh Hodgson stunting Canberra's attack, overplaying his hand and not capitalising on the new rules which suit a hooker with a strong running game. Enter Starling who ran for a season-high 70 metres in last week's loss at North Queensland. Starling's greatest strength is the hard-edged simplicity he plays with, carting the ball forward and getting Canberra's forwards going.
Meanwhile, South Sydney have their own speedster in Damien Cook. With Marshall, Cody Walker and Reynolds all ball-playing options in the spine, it opens up Cook to put his energy into playing quick and direct - just as he likes it. Both will have a significant bearing on the performances of their forwards by extension.
The favourite: Superior form sees Souths installed comfortable favourites.
My tip: This shapes as the perfect opportunity for the Raiders to make a statement and re-announce themselves as premiership contenders, particularly given it is a home game. If the Raiders can match the Rabbitohs' energy and intensity up front they have a serious chance. Canberra by 7.
1. Caleb Aekins 2. Bailey Simonsson 3. Sebastian Kris 4. Curtis Scott 5. Jordan Rapana 12. Elliott Whitehead 6. Jack Wighton 8. Ryan James 9. Tom Starling 10. Emre Guler 11. Corey Harawira-Naera 17. Hudson Young 13. Ryan Sutton 14. Siliva Havili 15. Joseph Tapine 16. Corey Horsburgh 19. Iosia Soliola 18. Matthew Timoko
1. Cody Walker 2. Alex Johnston 3. Dane Gagai 4. Campbell Graham 5. Jaxson Paulo 6. Benji Marshall 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Thomas Burgess 9. Damien Cook 17. Jai Arrow 11. Keaon Koloamatangi 12. Jaydn Su'A 13. Cameron Murray 14. Mark Nicholls 15. Liam Knight 16. Jacob Host 20. Patrick Mago 18. Steven Marsters
Referees: Ben Cummins; Sideline Officials: Peter Gough, Liam Kennedy; Video Referees: Henry Perenara;