While it’s only round five, Thursday night’s Canberra v Canterbury game at GIO Canberra Stadium is crucial, with Canterbury on one win and no wins for Canberra.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Canberra have been extremely disappointing, losing three winnable games against Gold Coast (30-28), Newcastle (30-28) and NZ Warriors (20-19). Like Dick Van Dyke and the ottoman, Canberra keep tripping up and making fools of themselves. Their trip to Brookvale last Saturday night ended in a 32-16 loss, trailing 26-6 at halftime. Coach Ricky Stuart – as passionate about the Green Machine as anyone – gave the team an almighty spray after the Manly game. With their ears still bleeding and playing a rare free-to-air game, Canberra will be desperate to atone.
Canterbury have also struggled, with one win against Penrith (20-18), following losses to Melbourne (36-18) and the Sydney Roosters (30-12). They blew a winning position against Souths on Good Friday, leading 16-10 with five minutes left. Tries to Hymel Hunt and Cameron Murray stole the 20-16 win for Souths.
During Saturday night’s press conference, Stuart said, “Why should I make changes when they deliver that c**p?” He was relatively true to his word, with only Josh Papalii dropped from the starting XVII to the reserves bench. Blake Austin (a tryscorer in the Mounties’ big win over Blacktown Workers) returns on the reserves bench with Jack Murchie and Michael Oldfield, while Liam Knight goes to the interchange bench.
Aiden Tolman misses out with an ankle injury, with Asipeli Fine, Greg Eastwood, John Olive, Kerrod Holland and Rhyse Martin included. Fine, Eastwood, Olive and Martin are in the reserves bench, Holland on the interchange bench.
Canberra and Canterbury played in a trial at the Sunshine Coast, with the 16-12 loss setting a worrying precedent for Canberra. Canterbury and Canberra played once last year – in round nine – with the Bulldogs winning 16-10 at ANZ Stadium. Canberra lead 10-4 at halftime with tries to Jarrod Croker and Josh Hodgson. Josh Morris and Adam Elliott scored in the second half. The last time Canterbury played in Canberra was round 12, 2016. In the middle of a three-game winning streak, Joe Tapine (two tries), Edrick Lee, BJ Leilua, Jordan Rapana and Iosia Soliola led Canberra to a 32-12 win.
Both sides have key backlines. Canberra’s back five is dangerous with Jack Wighton, Nick Cotric, Jarrod Croker, Joseph Leilua and Jordan Rapana. Canterbury have Moses Mbye, Brett Morris, Josh Morris (who scored both of Canterbury’s tries against Souths), Will Hopoate, and Marcelo Montoya. Whoever wins the battle of the backline will control the game.
Canberra’s brilliant 2016 run was fueled by a 10-2 home record. Since 2017, Canberra have six wins out of 14 games at Bruce, including 2018 losses to Newcastle and NZ Warriors.
Canberra: 1 Jack Wighton, 2 Nick Cotric, 3 Jarrod Croker (c), 4 Joseph Leilua, 5 Jordan Rapana, 6 Aiden Sezer, 7 Sam Williams, 8 Iosia Soliola, 9 Siliva Havili, 10 Junior Paulo, 11 Joseph Tapine, 12 Elliott Whitehead, 13 Luke Bateman
Interchange: 14 Ata Hingano, 15 Shannon Boyd, 16 Dunamis Lui, 17 Liam Knight
Reserves: 18 Jack Murchie, 19 Michael Oldfield, 20 Blake Austin, 21 Josh Papalii
Canterbury-Bankstown: 1 Moses Mbye, 2 Brett Morris, 3 Josh Morris, 4 Will Hopoate, 5 Marcelo Montoya, 6 Jeremy Marshall-King, 7 Kieran Foran, 8 Aaron Woods, 9 Michael Lichaa, 10 David Klemmer, 11 Josh Jackson (c), 12 Raymond Faitala-Mariner, 13 Adam Elliott
Interchange: 14 Fa’amanu Brown, 15 Danny Fualalo, 16 Francis Tualalo, 17 Kerrod Holland
Reserves: 18 Greg Eastwood, 19 Asipeli Fine, 20 John Olive, 21 Rhyse Martin
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Thursday 5th April.
Venue: GIO Canberra Stadium.
WHO WILL WIN?
A tough game to predict, as both teams are desperate. If Canberra don’t lift after Ricky Stuart’s harsh words and with a home crowd cheering them, then they never will. Despite losing four games, Canberra have played some decent footy in patches, while Canterbury were well beaten by Melbourne and the Roosters. Canberra showed promising signs in the second half against Manly, so should find a way to win Thursday night.
Canberra by six.