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Blake Ferguson is in from the cold for the Parramatta Eels as they take on a Canberra Raiders outfit desperate to extend their winning streak to three and keep finals hopes alive. Tune into the action from the Gold Coast as Round 19 kicks off with live scores on The Roar from 7:50pm (AEST).
Out of contract come season’s end, Ferguson’s NRL career has looked all but over for much of the year; but after finally being granted a recall by Brad Arthur at the expense of Haze Dunster, the popular veteran will get one more chance to showcase his wares for any prospective suitors out there.
The Eels have won four of their last five, with the sole loss by a solitary point to the Panthers, and a win here would see them keep the pressure on at least the third-placed Rabbitohs as the race to finals heats up.
A back fracture sustained in Origin 3 has ruled Mitchell Moses out again, which sees Jakob Arthur earn another chance at halfback; while debutant Will Penisini is in for Tom Opacic.
An excellent fortnight has seen the Raiders surge back from the brink and well and truly into finals contention. Now ninth, only a slender points differential is keeping Ricky Stuart’s team out of the eight.
They’ve been too good for Manly and the Sharks in the past fortnight, with some newfound attacking brilliance the key to their success. However, they received a hammer blow in the lead-up to this game, with new star Xavier Savage suffering a season-ending shoulder injury during his breakout game against Cronulla.
Savage’s absence sees Jordan Rapana shift to fullback, while a rib injury sidelines Jack Wighton from a return to club duty after his role in Origin 3. Matt Frawley will take on the number six.
1. Clint Gutherson (c), 2. Maika Sivo, 3. Will Penisini, 4. Waqa Blake, 5. Blake Ferguson, 6. Dylan Brown, 7. Jake Arthur, 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 9. Reed Mahoney, 10. Junior Paulo, 11. Isaiah Papali’i, 12. Ryan Matterson, 13. Nathan Brown
Bench/Reserves: 14. Marata Niukore, 15. Shaun Lane, 16. Oregon Kaufusi, 17. Will Smith | 18. Haze Dunster, 19. Bryce Cartwright
1. Jordan Rapana, 2. Harley Smith-Shields, 3. Jarrod Croker (c), 4. Sebastian Kris, 5. Semi Valemei, 6. Matt Frawley, 7. Sam Williams, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Josh Hodgson, 10. Emre Guler, 11. Corey Harawira-Naera, 12. Hudson Young, 13. Ryan Sutton
Bench/Reserves: 14. Tom Starling, 15. Matthew Timoko, 16. Iosia Soliola, 17. Joe Tapine | 18. Caleb Aekins, 19. Ryan James