Julian Vella previews the only Saturday night game of round 12, as the Canterbury Bulldogs host the Canberra Raiders at Homebush’s ANZ Stadium.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
It was always going to be a hard season for the Bulldogs; despite some promising performances, it feels like one step forward two steps back for Dean Pay’s men, who followed up their impressive win over the Titans with an under-par showing against the Storm on Sunday.
After starting the season on fire, winning six of their first eight matches, things have gone south for Ricky Stuart’s Raiders, slumping to three consecutive losses. Injuries have played their part but Stuart will be furious that his side has wasted their good start.
The Bulldogs are missing just the one player to Origin duty, with Dylan Napa replaced by Ofahiki Ogden. There is also a recall to the bench for Raymond Faitala-Mariner who hasn’t played first grade since round 2.
The Bulldogs will be disappointed with their showing last week after their win over the Titans; sitting at the bottom of the table they’ll know they need a big improvement this week if they want to lift themselves from the cellar.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs squad: 1. Nick Meaney 2. Christian Crichton 3. Marcelo Montoya 4. Will Hopoate 5. Reimis Smith 6. Kieran Foran 7. Jack Cogger 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Ofahiki Ogden 11. Josh Jackson 12. Corey Harawira-Naera 13. Chris Smith 14. Rhyse Martin 15. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 16. Danny Fualalo 17. Sauaso Sue 19. Michael Lichaa 20. Lachlan Lewis 21. Kerrod Holland 23. Adam Elliott
You can’t help but feel sorry for the Raiders. After putting in a massive pre-season the fruits of their hard work were showing with their fast start to the season, but injuries have struck their key players.
Already missing Jordan Rapana and Joseph Leilua the Raiders have lost Josh Hodgson to injury, plus Josh Papalii, Jack Wighton and Nick Cotric to Origin duties. In some good news, John Bateman is seeing a specialist to clear him for a return this week.
Canberra Raiders squad: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Bailey Simonsson 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Sebastian Kris 5. Michael Oldfield 6. Aidan Sezer 7. Sam Williams 8. Corey Horsburgh 9. Siliva Havili 10. Dunamis Lui 11. Joseph Tapine 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Hudson Young 14. Tom Starling 15. Emre Guler 16. Iosia Soliola 17. Ryan Sutton 18. Ata Hingano 19. Royce Hunt 20. Andre Niko 21. John Bateman
HEAD TO HEAD
Looking at the table this looks like a mismatch, with the Raiders sitting pretty on fifth place whilst the Bulldogs are anchored to the bottom of the ladder. But the Blue and White will see this game as a match they can win with all the injured and unavailable players the Raiders are trying to replace.
Canberra won both meetings last season and have enjoyed a small period of dominance over Canterbury, winning four of their last five. Whilst the Bulldogs will see this game as a chance to get off the bottom, Canberra will feel they need to win this game to stay in touch with the top four.
You’d expect the Raiders to be heavy favourites in this match, but the long list of missing stars has brought the Bulldogs back into the reckoning. In a season where wins have been hard to come by, the Bulldogs will know this as good a chance as ever to claim another precious two competition points.
If Canterbury are to win they’ll need a good all-round performance from every player in their side; in a side lacking in superstars the Bulldogs have relied on a team effort getting them across the line in their three wins to date.
In recent weeks the combination of halves Keiran Foran and Jack Cogger has started to bare fruit with each player’s strength complementing the other’s weaknesses. Cogger seems more comfortable directing the side around the park without having the pressure of having to also play the creator in attack, whilst Foran’s running game is once again flourishing without having to worry about organising the side.
Canberra will know if they can shut down the Bulldogs’ halves there isn’t a lot of spark outside of the two playmakers, so expect the Raiders to send plenty of traffic at Foran and Cogger, whilst also assigning one of their mobile back rowers the task of getting in their faces and shutting them down.
That player could be young backrower Hudson Young, who has impressed in recent weeks since being moved to the starting lineup. Young has shown he’s willing to mix it with the big boys, going toe-to-toe with Sam Burgess and Jason Taumololo in the last fortnight, but he could be redeployed this week to pressure the Canterbury halves.
With so much strikepower out wide unavailable this week for the Raiders – coupled with the glaring omission of their best player Josh Hodgson – the halves pairing of Sam Williams and Aiden Sezer will have to carry the weight of responsibility. For Sezer this is a good chance for him to show he’s still the best half at the club after sitting in reserve grade for the majority of this season.
In a game which is lacking any real game breakers out wide, the match will be won or lost in the forwards and the platform they can lay for their respective halves, this could be a low-scoring game with chances at a premium, so which ever sides’ halves can take advantage of their chances will most likely win.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday 1st of June
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Homebush
Kick-off: 7:35pm AEST
Referee: Grant Atkins and Dave Munro
WHO WILL WIN?
It’s hard to get too excited about this match especially with State of Origin game one just around the corner, but there are two very important competition points up for grabs. Both sides will see this as a winnable game, so there’s always a chance of both sides being over-cautious which could provide a low-scoring tight tussle. Despite being depleted by injury and rep duties I expect Canberra to win a tight contest.