Andrew Pelechaty previews Canberra’s return to GIO Stadium against South Sydney on Saturday night.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Canberra (6-3) remained in the top four despite a six point loss to the Sydney Roosters last Sunday. The Roosters were keen to get to the fireworks factory, leading 30-6 early in the second half; Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Michael Oldfield and Jack Wighton scored to close the gap to 30-24. A potential equaliser on full time was denied by a Nick Cotric forward pass. Despite this near miss, it was a fantastic fightback which showed their top four credentials. This will be Canberra’s first genuine night game in 2019 after a few early evening/twilight matches.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Souths (8-1) regained second place with their fifth straight win, beating North Queensland 32-16 in the last Magic Round game (tries to Sam Burgess, Cameron Murray, Kyle Turner, Cody Walker and Damien Cook), leading 18-0 after 23 minutes. They have an excellent 4-1 away record, so going to Bruce Stadium shouldn’t hold too many fears for them.
Bailey Simonsson replaces the injured Jordan Rapana on the wing. Sebastian Kris joins the bench.
Canberra Raiders squad: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Bailey Simonsson 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Nick Cotric 5. Michael Oldfield 6. Jack Wighton 7. Sam Williams 8. Josh Papalii 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Dunamis Lui 11. Hudson Young 12. Elliot Whitehead 13. Ryan Sutton 14. Siliva Havili 15. Sebastian Kris 16. Iosia Soliola 17. Corey Horsburgh 18. Aidan Sezer 19. Emre Guler 20. Royce Hunt 21. Jack Murchie
South Sydney Rabbitohs
With Alex Johnston out, Corey Allan moves to fullback and Mawene Hiroti on the wing.
South Sydney Rabbitohs squad: 1. Corey Allan 2. Mawene Hiroti 3. Kyle Turner 4. Dane Gagai 5. Campbell Graham 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. George Burgess 9. Damien Cook 10. Thomas Burgess 11. John Sutton 12. Sam Burgess 13. Cameron Murray 14. Tevita Tatola 15. Mark Nicholls 16. Ethan Lowe 17. Liam Knight 18. Jacob Gagan 19. Bayley Sironen 20. Dean Britt 21. Tom Amone
HEAD TO HEAD
Canberra have a great recent record against Souths. Since 2015, Canberra have won four from five (Souths’ only win 42-22 at Gosford in round seven last year). In their last home game of 2018, Canberra surprised a top four-bound Souths. The Rabbitohs looked like heading for a big win, leading 12-0 after 26 minutes. Foreshadowing the resilience that has typified Canberra’s improved 2019, two tries to Michael Oldfield, and singles to Iosia Soliola and Nick Cotric got Canberra home 24-12, giving Raiders fans some pleasant memories after a tough year.
It’ll be a big battle between five eighths Cody Walker and Jack Wighton.
Walker’s been on fire for Souths, with 10 tries in 9 games, including four against the NZ Warriors. Wighton has grown into the five eighth role, combining with Sam Williams to drive Canberra into the top four and score five tries himself. While Wighton can make mistakes, he quickly bounces back with his improved kicking game and some tenacious defence. Wighton’s familiarity with Bruce Stadium should tip this close contest Canberra’s way.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday May 18.
Venue: GIO Stadium Canberra
WHO WILL WIN?
While South Sydney are in fine touch, Canberra will take heart from their comeback against the Roosters, turning around a dirty afternoon and nearly taking it to Golden Point. A loss here sees Canberra start to fall back to the pack, with Manly, Wests Tigers, Cronulla and Parramatta not far behind them. By contrast, Souths are comfortably in the top four and aren’t going anywhere, though they’d like to stay in touch with the first placed Roosters.
The self belief gained by the Lang Park revival – combined with their new-found resilience in close games – should be enough motivation to get Canberra home.
Canberra by two.