Andrew Pelechaty previews round 16’s final game, with Canberra hosting Canterbury-Bankstown. This is what we have to look forward to.
Like the classic Limp Bizkit song, Canberra have been rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ to the tryline, with a combined 74 points (and 12 tries) against Brisbane and the Gold Coast in the last fortnight. Despite their improved form, this is a danger game for Canberra. Depending on results, they could be as low as seventh come Sunday night, so they’ll need to win – and win handsomely – to stay in touch with the top four. With Corey Harawira-Naera unable to play against his former club, Matthew Timoko will make his NRL debut. He played for Canberra in the Nines earlier this year.
Once again, the Bulldogs blew a winning position last week, losing 20-14 to the Warriors after leading 14-6 early in the second half. While the last-placed Bulldogs still have a healthy points differential compared to Brisbane, they’ve lost four straight games and haven’t been able to leapfrog the Broncos yet.
1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Jordan Rapana 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Curtis Scott 5. Nick Cotric 6. Jack Wighton 7. George Williams 8. Josh Papali’i 9. Siliva Havili 10. Dunamis Lui 11. John Bateman 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Hudson Young 14. Tom Starling 15. Joseph Tapine 16. Ryan Sutton 17. Matthew Timoko 18. Sam Williams 19. Harley Smith-Shields 20. Kai O’Donnell 21. Matt Frawley.
1. Will Hopoate 2. Nick Meaney 3. Marcelo Montoya 4. Kerrod Holland 5. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 6. Kieran Foran 7. Lachlan Lewis 8. Ofahiki Ogden 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Dylan Napa 11. Josh Jackson 12. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 13. Aiden Tolman 14. Sione Katoa 15. Renouf To’omaga 16. Dean Britt 17. Matt Doorey 19. Luke Thompson 20. Jack Cogger 21. Reimis Smith 22. Tim Lafai.
The head-to-head can’t get any closer, with 18 wins each since 1998. Canberra have won the last three: 12-10, 32-28 (the miracle comeback at Belmore, engineered by Blake Austin), and 26-10.
BATTLE TO WATCH
Nick Cotric vs Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
This is a big game for Nick Cotric: not only will he be trying to help Canberra win, but he’ll subconsciously want to impress his future club. He’s scored 10 tries in 15 games this season, including doubles against the Broncos and Titans. Expect a fired-up Cotric to find the line at least once on Sunday night.
Returning after a two-week break, DWZ hasn’t been as effective in finding the tryline, with just one try in 13 appearances in 2020. He’ll need to turn that around to give Canterbury hopes of an upset win. Of course, he made that crucial backwards-play-the-ball error in Canterbury’s tight loss to Parramatta a few weeks ago, so he’ll also want to concentrate on the one percenters.
Canberra should win this comfortably, assuming they turn up to Bruce with their heads screwed on. The Bulldogs will be brave, but they’ve let too many winning positions slip to seriously challenge the Raiders, who have their eyes on a potential top four spot. If Canberra get off to a fast start, it could be a long night for the Bulldogs.
Canberra by 38.
Date: Sunday, August 30.
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra.