Andrew Pelechaty previews the grand final “replay” at the SCG. This is what we have to look forward to.
While this may technically be a grand final replay, the Roosters and Raiders’ form couldn’t be starker (a good reason why a proper grand final replay should open the new season). After losing their first two games, the Roosters (6-3) have won six of their last seven since the COVID-19 resumption. The only loss was in Golden Point to the Melbourne Storm, though the probably should have won that after leading 22-12 with 12 minutes left.
The Roosters – like all good sides – have demolished the weaker teams: beating Brisbane 59-0, Canterbury-Bankstown 42-6, and North Queensland 42-16 (with replacement winger Matt Ikuvalu scoring five tries). This game has a bit more significance, with the Roosters finally returning to the SCG: the first time since last year’s preliminary final.
It’s easier to pinpoint wasn’t hasn’t gone right for the Raiders (5-4) since the COVID-19 resumption. After beating Melbourne in round three, the Raiders have won just two of their last seven, though one of them was a Golden Point loss to Parramatta. Losing Josh Hodgson and Bailey Simonsson to season-ending injuries during the Melbourne game (joining John Bateman, Sia Soliola, Corey Horsburgh, and Emre Guler on the sideline) could have big repercussions for the Raiders’ finals hopes. Fortunately, they have a kinder draw after the Roosters game, only playing four current top eight sides from rounds 11 to 20.
1. James Tedesco 2. Matt Ikuvalu 3. Josh Morris 4. Joseph Manu 5. Brett Morris 6. Luke Keary 7. Kyle Flanagan 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Jake Friend 10. Siosiua Taukeiaho 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Angus Crichton 13. Nat Butcher 14. Lachlan Lam 15. Sitili Tupouniua 16. Mitchell Aubusson 17. Lindsay Collins 18. Poasa Faamausili 19. Ryan Hall 20. Isaac Liu 21. Drew Hutchison.
1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Nick Cotric 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Michael Oldfield 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Jack Wighton 7. George Williams 8. Josh Papali’i 9. Siliva Havili 10. Dunamis Lui 11. Hudson Young 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Joseph Tapine 14. Tom Starling 15. Kai O’Donnell 16. Ryan Sutton 17. Curtis Scott 18. Matt Frawley 19. Darby Medlyn 20. Sam Williams 21. Semi Valemi.
The Roosters have a 25-12 head-to-head advantage since 1998. The Roosters swept Canberra 3-0 last year: 30-24 in Magic Round at Lang Park (round nine), 22-18 in Canberra (round 21), and – of course – 14-8 in the grand final. Canberra’s last win was 14-12 in round 23, 2018. It was a genuine upset, with Canberra out of finals contention and the Roosters heading towards the minor premiership.
BATTLE TO WATCH
Jarrod Croker v Kyle Flanagan
Not so much a positional battle as a battle of the goalkickers. With Josh Hodgson gone, Jarrod Croker needs to show leadership in a game nobody expects Canberra to win. The Roosters have only conceded an average of 12 points a game, so if the Raiders score, Croker (who kicked 1/3 against Melbourne and has 24 goals this season) has to turn four points into six or nail any penalty goals on offer.
Kyle Flanagan has a enjoyed fine season with the boot, kicking 43 goals, including a season-high nine in the 59-0 rout of the Broncos. He nailed a vital sideline penalty goal in the closing minutes of the epic Storm game to tie it at 24-24, so we know he’s fine under pressure. Whether Canberra can put him under pressure is another matter.
With the Roosters returning to the SCG in sublime form, and the Raiders having a million injuries, it’ll be #EastsToWin to open round 10. The Raiders will be brave and fight it out for the whole 80 minutes (like they did against Melbourne), but the Roosters will have too much class.
Sydney Roosters by 12.
Date: Thursday, July 16.