It has been yet another mixed week for the Canberra Raiders, who after their disappointing 26-12 loss to the Knights, have been buoyed by the good news of the re-signing of Joel Edwards. This comes less than a week after the good news that big man Dane Tilse had re-signed to play for the club for a further two years.
Fans of the Green Machine will be hoping that the good news off field with lead to good news on field as they prepare for a crucial game when they host the Melbourne Storm this Sunday afternoon. Officials will be hoping a coolish forecast will not deter fans from turning up en masse to see their side host the superstars of the Storm.
With Saturday’s loss, the Raiders have slipped to two wins from six, and will be looking to start their run up the table before they fall too far off the pace. Looking forward there is one period of time where the Raiders can possibly excel, while other clubs expected to be above them on the ladder historically struggle – The Origin period.
Prior to Origin One, the Raiders host the North Queensland, who will be without Maroon superstars Jonathan Thurston and Matt Scott, as well as New South Wales prop James Tamou. Although the Raiders themselves are likely to be missing Josh Papalii and possibly David Shillington, the loss of Thurston surely opens the door for what could be seen as an upset win.
Just three days after Origin One, the Raiders travel to Allianz in Sydney to face a Roosters side which is expected to feature Mitchell Pearce, Boyd Cordner and Michael Jennings in the interstate clash. James Maloney and Aiden Guerra are also in the mix to represent their states. Once again the main general in attack in Pearce will either be missing or backing up from an intense 80 minutes where he will be targeted by the likes of Sam Thaiday and Nate Myles.
Canberra’s fixtures around the first Origin are almost perfect and the club will be confident of being able to pick up four valuable competition points. Of course opposition players backing up or missing do not guarantee victories and the club will need their stars Anthony Milford, Terry Campese and co. to step up, especially over this all important period.
Although the Raiders have a bye heading into Origin 2, they will be extremely well rested when they host the Bulldogs on the Friday Night. The Dogs are certain to have Josh Morris backing up and are likely to be without number six Josh Reynolds. Once again with their opponents dominant half either missing or backing up after a big defensive effort, the Raiders will be primed to strike in what are expected to be chilly conditions.
Once again the Green Machine enjoy the bye heading into Origin Three before travelling to the holiday strip to play the Titans. The high flying Titans are likely to do it tough during the representative period as they are certain to lose their two best forwards in Greg Bird and Nate Myles. Amongst the first players picked for rep honours, Bird and Myles will be expected to put in big minutes and make plenty of tackles for their respective states, which may play into the Raiders hands.
Of course any advantages they do have heading into the rep season will be null and void should the club not string some wins together beforehand. Ricky Stuart was brought in to do what was always seen as a tough job, return the once glamourous Raiders to finals regulars. With a side boasting State of Origin quality in Milford, Campese, Shillington, and Papalii as well as a host of talented players such as Croker, Wighton and Fensom, the pressure may soon be on the former Canberra star.
If the Raiders can put together a good run of form pre-origin, they may find themselves right back in the race come the rep season. It goes without saying that each and every game is important, but for the Raiders, they may need to make the most of their favourable Origin draw to be in the reckoning come September.
The owner of Monstasport, Daniel Nichols is one of the most prolific featured guest writers on League Freak's web site.
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