Raiders prepare for Pomeroy-less Sharks
Canberra skipper David Shillington suspects Ben Pomeroy will be a no-show for Cronulla in their NRL sudden-death final on Sunday, predicting the centre will be pinged at least a week for his shoulder hit on Johnathan Thurston.
Pomeroy is set to front the NRL judiciary on Wednesday night to fight a dangerous contact charge which threatens to derail his finals campaign before it has even begun.
Shillington told AAP on Tuesday he was preparing for a Cronulla outfit minus the veteran centre, but only on account of his existing record.
“It wasn’t a vicious tackle,” Shillington said.
“He wasn’t trying to take off Thurston’s head or anything.
“Just on its own merit, those tackles usually come with some sort of guilty plea, but he’s got loading and previous points already.
“So I’d be very surprised if he’s not suspended for a week.”
Pomeroy has made himself the crash test dummy for the NRL’s new crackdown on shoulder charges after collecting Thurston in the dying minutes of his team’s 36-22 loss to North Queensland.
The defeat ensured the Sharks will travel to Canberra on Sunday to tackle the high-flying Raiders before what is expected to be a sell-out crowd.
By Tuesday afternoon, already more than 20,000 tickets had been sold.
Shillington, back in Canberra after the team’s four-day trip to Auckland, welcomed the “dark horse” tag the Raiders have been pegged with pre-finals, agreeing they’ll go in as the best prepared squad of the eight.
“We’ve been under some serious scrutiny and been bagged pretty hard by the fans,” said Shillington of his side, which looked to be more like wooden spoon contenders earlier in the year.
“The coach (David Furner) was under all sorts of pressure and the team was too.
“But that resilience and good character we’ve built through that has prepared us to be able to handle a semi.
“It’s been do or die for the last couple of months, so we’re probably the best prepared out of any side to handle it.”
But there are things to work on – Shillington and Furner both brought up the Raiders’ opening half against the Warriors, when they made some routine errors to give the home team a 22-6 halftime advantage.
They scored 36 unanswered points on the other side of the break to run away with the win, but Shillington said it was a wake-up call to the side – currently on a five-match winning streak – not to get complacent.
“On the weekend we showed we only wanted to play one half,” he said.
“We need to step it up another gear just to compete with the Sharks.”
Canberra are the bookies’ favourite to take victory, their first home semi since they were downed at Canberra Stadium by Wests Tigers in 2010.
And they are likely to be buoyed by the return of Josh Dugan (ankle) and Sam Williams (shoulder) to their starting line-up.© AAP 2013