The New Zealand Warriors host the Canberra Raiders at Mt Smart Stadium in the last round of the regular season, the Warriors are finals bound after securing their spot with last weeks’ victory, whilst the Raiders will sign off on season 2018 after a disappointing year.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
New Zealand Warriors
Like most sides at this stage in the season the Warriors’ form has been patchy, but after looking shaky going into the last third of the season, they’ve been able to produce a number of impressive performances to book themselves a ticket to September. Mixed in with these impressive performances the Kiwi side have still produced the odd stinker, so despite their big win over Penrith last week you never know what performance they’ll dish up this week.
The Raiders are easily the most frustrating side in NRL, not only for their fans but for their poor coach Ricky Stuart. The Green Machine lost numerous games by six points or less this season and will look back on 2018 as the year of ‘what could have been’. The Raiders are the best attacking team in the competition which is unheard of for a team to lead the competition in points scored and still not qualify for the finals, and to really rub salt into the wounds of their fans, Canberra have beaten two of the competition favourites, Souths and Roosters in consecutive weeks.
New Zealand Warriors
The Warriors have made just the one change to their side that defeated the Panthers last Friday, utility back Gerald Beale returns to the side after being a late scratching last week, he replaces Leivaha Pulu on the bench. Blake Green is again missing this week as Stephen Kearney keeps his key play maker on ice so he will be fit and ready for the finals.
Ricky Stuart has picked the same team as last week after their impressive win over the Rabbitohs, despite missing a host of stars Stuart has been able to put together a strong side in the last month with plenty of young players taking their chance in the top grade. Aiden Sezer has again been named in the extended side, but it’s unlikely he’ll be brought back into the final 17.
Canberra and the Warriors face off for the second time this season although it seems an age ago since their Round 3 encounter where Canberra looked to have the game won after leading by 19-6 in the second half. But a late try to Issac Luke and two field goals to Shaun Johnson helped the Warriors steal a one point victory.
As the season progressed the Warriors continued to surprise sides and have eventually sealed a first finals birth since 2011, whilst the Raiders have continued to disappoint by losing games they should have won. But after hitting form in the last two weeks Canberra will be looking to finish the year with a bang, and send off departing players Blake Austin, Shannon Boyd and Junior Paulo with a win.
The Warriors big season has been off the back of their fullback and captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck who is favourite to win the Dally M Player of the year after having his best season in a Warriors jersey. RTS will line up against a young man who left the Warriors for an opportunity to make it in the NRL, Brad Abbey knew he had to leave New Zealand with RTS having a mortgage on the No. 1 Jersey, and after the suspension to Jack Wighton gave him his chance, Abbey hasn’t looked back and looks at home now in the Raiders side.
This game also brings together some of the best wingers in the competition with Canberra’s Jordan Rapana and Nick Cotic lining up against David Fusitu’a and Ken Maumalo of the Warriors. With 46 tries between the four men this season you can be sure at least one of them will cross the paint for a try this week, in fact there promises to be plenty of points scored in this match with these two sides happy to throw the ball around, they’re two of the better sides to watch when in form.
The Warriors will be looking for their first win over Canberra in Auckland since 2015.
Warriors: 1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 2 David Fusitu’a, 3 Peta Hiku, 4 Solomone Kata, 5 Ken Maumalo, 6 Mason Lino, 7 Shaun Johnson, 8 James Gavet, 9 Issac Luke, 10 Agnatius Paasi, 11 Adam Blair, 12 Tohu Harris, 13 Simon Mannering, 14 Jazz Tevaga, 15 Isaiah Papali’i 16 Bunty Afoa, 17 Gerard Beale, 18 Leivaha Pulu 20 Anthony Gelling 21 Chris Satae, 22 Karl Lawton
Raiders: 1 Brad Abbey, 2 Nick Cotric 3 Michael Oldfield, 4 Joseph Leilua, 5 Jordan Rapana 6 Blake Austin, 7 Sam Williams 8 Dunamis Lui, 9 Josh Hodgson, 10 Shannon Boyd, 11 Iosia Soliola, 12 Elliott Whitehead, 13 Josh Papalii, 14 Emre Guler, 15 Junior Paulo, 16 Siliva Havili, 17 Luke Bateman, 18 Jack Murchie, 19 Liam Knight, 20 Makahesi Makatoa, 21 Aidan Sezer
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday 31st of August
Venue: Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland
Kick-off: 6:00pm AEST
WHO WILL WIN?
This game promises to be exciting and unpredictable with both sides playing well last week picking a winner is hard. Canberra have nothing to play for so expect them to throw caution to the wind and throw the ball around, whilst the Warriors still have plenty riding on this match with a win likely to reward them with a home final next week. This might play on the Warriors’ minds so I expect the Raiders to win a high scoring affair. Raiders 1-12