So here we have a game that would be a great yardstick for the Raiders, play host to a top three side and show how much they have progressed. But in reality we will see Canberra face up to a Cowboys side missing five of their stars due to Origin and so unless an unreasonable upset occurs, we will not learn a thing. Canberra could win this by fifty, nobody would be surprised and nobody would be writing off the Cowboys. Or the Cowboys could pull the upset off as the young guns who came in muscle up and put in the hard yards and upset the hosts, and again it would be an aberration of a game due to the inconsistencies of the side facing up.

The hardest task for Canberra will be how the replacement players make their impact. With some, like Javid Bowen, you have had a few weeks to see how he plays and what his strengths and weaknesses are, but for Josh Chudleigh, they are either relying on the knowledge of how he played as a young fellow three years’ prior or some downloaded footage from his games in the Intrust Super Cup in Queensland. Coen Hess will have to improve from his last showing, and he should. Canberra are playing fast rolling football and he has been facing up to that rather than the severe bashing he has had to face in his other match.

Canberra will be trying to exploit two factors in this game. They will want the Cowboys to be miserable as they transit from last weekend’s match in Cairns and 25° to Canberra, where due to the lies of politicians having a net imbalance to the climate and trying to accomplish the freezing over of hell, they will face 8° at the start of the match as it heads down to 1°. I used to live near there and that is why I prefer the risk of cyclones as it is not sensible for humans to exist in temperatures that low. Why would you even bother, when you have such lovely temperatures up in North Queensland, would you even bother with inhabiting Canberra.

Canberra will also be looking to play fast tempo football to exploit the difference in level of play and fitness between the NRL and the next tier. With only two changes (1 injury and 1 suspension) Canberra will be heading in with a squad including the unlucky Blake Austin (who must be close to selection and will be if he continues this form) and Aiden Sezer has also been excellent in combination together. They are a major reason why they are sitting in fifth and hoping to use this game to put pressure on both the Cowboys and Broncos as the season gets to the pointy end.

Why the Cowboys can win. They come in with very little pressure on them and the players involved such as Jason Taumalolo and the entire back line are dangerous when they are free to chance their arm. Spread it wide and keep moving to stay warm may be the entire game plan and given the speed and skills that are still involved, could easily undo an unprepared Raiders. I doubt it as Ricky Stuart teams do not play to rosters but funny things can happen. Being honest, it would not surprise me to see them put a lot of pressure on the Canberra halves and the replacements who have come in are all NRL quality and will appreciate not having to play this game under the spotlight.

Who should win? This game is Canberra’s to lose, if you take the best five out of any side, you should be confident when facing up to them. When you take two props, the world’s best player, and two others who are good and both play eighty, then you are heading in with a huge advantage.

PREDICTION

Heart says Cowboys by 4, but if the brain controlled the wallet the money would be with Canberra. Mind you, if we see them again this season, it will be in the finals and I know who I will be picking when the teams are at full strength and playing for sheep-stations.

Final Score: Raiders by 8.

SQUADS

Raiders: 1. Jack Wighton 2. Brenko Lee 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Joseph Leilua 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Blake Austin 7. Aidan Sezer 8. Junior Paulo 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Shannon Boyd 11. Iosia Soliola 12. Elliot Whitehead 13. Shaun Fensom. Interchange: 14. Kurt Baptiste 15. Clay Priest 16. Paul Vaughan 17. Joseph Tapine

Cowboys: 1. Lachlan Coote 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Tautau Moga 4. Javid Bowen 5. Antonio Winterstein 6. Rory Kostjasyn 7. Ray Thompson 8. Ben Hannant 9. Jake Granville 10. Scott Bolton 11. Coen Hess 12. Ethan Lowe 13. Jason Taumalolo. Interchange: 14. Josh Chudleigh 15. John Asiata 16. Ben Spina 17. Patrick Kaufusi