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The desperate Canberra Raiders host the Brisbane Broncos on Saturday night hoping to get their season back on track. Join The Roar for live scores and commentary from 7.30pm (AEST).
It would have been a bold prediction to say the Raiders would be in the bottom four for this Round 14 clash against the equally struggling Broncos. but here we are. The Raiders have been far from their best for most of this season and, find themselves up a famous creek without a paddle as it stands. They have one win from their last seven starts, and that was against the last-placed Bulldogs in Magic Round. There has been disruption after disruption, and while a bye last week would have looked an enticing prospect, they now have had Curtis Scott in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
The Raiders have a lone Origin representative in Jack Wighton who will back up after playing just nine minutes in Origin 1. They also welcome back Josh Papalii from suspension. Bailey Simonsson replaces Caleb Aeikins at fullback, Sami Valemei is onto the wing, and Joseph Tapine returns on the bench.
The Broncos have done more tinkering with their halves pairing. Karmichael Hunt will play his first NRL game since 2009 at five-eighth, partnering Albert Kelly. Xavier Coates and Payne Haas are slated to back up from Origin 1. Jamayne Isaako was hooked in their loss to the Dragons last week, and is replaced by Herbie Farnworth at the back
Historically the Broncos have a pretty good record over the Raiders, winning 20 of the 35 played. In saying that, the Raiders have beaten the Broncos in the last two clashes, both at GIO Stadium. Ricky Stuart’s men will be searching for their first home since Round 1, against the Wests Tigers.
This is likely to be a dour affair on a freezing Canberra night. The Raiders simply need to win, at any cost, to keep their top 8 hopes alive, and even more than that, for some pride – and to give their most loyal fans something to cheer about. They have been in games this year, particularly in first halves, but have let good opportunities slip away. Jack Wighton needs to be the man for them. He hasn’t been as dominant as in seasons past, and it has been telling in the results.
The Broncos have shown they can play some footy this year – they beat the Roosters on their home turf a few weeks ago. They were well in the contest against the Dragons last week, but as soon as they got behind their heads dropped and they let the contest slip completely. The consistent chopping and changing in key positions has to hurt. At some point you have to pick and stick, regardless of the result, just to get some combinations and confidence going. Where does a halves pairing of two journeymen in the twilight of their career get you? Is that a good long-term strategy?
You have to back the Raiders just because they are at home and they must still feel as though if they can put a few wins together they can make the eight. But I don’t think it will be all that convincing.
Raiders by 10
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1. Bailey Simonsson, 2. Semi Valemei, 3. Sebastian Kris, 4. Matt Timoko, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Jack Wighton, 7. Sam Williams, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Josh Hodgson, 10. Dunamis Lui, 11. Corey Harawira-Naera, 12. Elliott Whitehead (c), 13. Ryan Sutton
Bench/Reserves: 14. Tom Starling, 15. Emre Guler, 16. Iosia Soliola, 17. Joseph Tapine | 18. Elijah Anderson, 19. Hudson Young, 20. Matt Frawley, 21. Harry Rushton
1. Herbie Farnworth, 2. Xavier Coates, 3. Dale Copley, 4. Jesse Arthars, 5. Selwyn Cobbo, 6. Karmichael Hunt, 7. Albert Kelly, 8. Matt Lodge, 9. Jake Turpin, 10. Payne Haas, 11. Alex Glenn (c), 12. Tevita Pangai Jr, 13. Tom Flegler
Bench/Reserves: 14. Kobe Hetherington, 15. John Asiata, 16. Keenan Palasia, 17. TC Robati | 18. Tesi Niu, 19. Cory Paix, 20. David Mead, 21. Jordan Riki