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2021 NRL Round 24 Preview, Warriors Vs Raiders

Andrew Pelechaty previews the early Friday clash between the NZ Warriors and Canberra at Mackay. This is what we have to look forward to.

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TEAM NEWS

Venue: BB Print Stadium, Mackay, Date: Friday August 27, Time: 6pm

Warriors Team

  1. Reece Walsh
  2. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
  3. Peta Hiku
  4. Adam Pompey
  5. Marcelo Montoya
  6. Sean O’Sullivan
  7. Chad Townsend
  8. Addin Fonua-Blake
  9. Wayde Egan
  10. Matt Lodge
  11. Josh Curran
  12. Euan Aitken
  13. Bayley Sironen
  14. Kodi Nikorima
  15. Bunty Afoa
  16. Eliesa Katoa
  17. Jazz Tevaga
  18. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown
  19. Rocco Berry
  20. Kane Evans
  21. Jack Murchie

Team Changes

IN: Kane Evans
Kodi Nikorima
Matthew Lodge
Rocco Berry
Sean O’Sullivan


OUT: Chanel Harris-Tavita
Jackson Frei

Raiders Team

  1. Jordan Rapana
  2. Bailey Simonsson
  3. Sebastian Kris
  4. Matthew Timoko
  5. Harley Smith-Shields
  6. Jack Wighton
  7. Matt Frawley
  8. Josh Papalii
  9. Josh Hodgson
  10. Joseph Tapine
  11. Hudson Young
  12. Elliott Whitehead
  13. Ryan Sutton
  14. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad
  15. Emre Guler
  16. Corey Horsburgh
  17. Siliva Havili
  18. Sam Williams
  19. Dunamis Lui
  20. Semi Valemei
  21. Trey Mooney

Team Changes

IN: Corey Horsburgh
Semi Valemei
Siliva Havili


OUT:
N/A

Referee: Ben Cummins

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Warriors

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After rallying with three straight wins, the Warriors’ faint finals hopes ended against the resurgent Broncos at Lang Park (24-22). While the Warriors scored five tries to Brisbane’s four (tries to Marcelo Montoya, Peta Hiku, Josh Curran, Dallin Watene-Zeleznian, Euan Aitken), Reece Walsh’s goalkicking was the difference, with one goal from five attempts, including missing the final goal that would have sent the game into Golden Point. It’s unfortunate for Walsh, as he’s been one of the Warriors’ best this season, but hopefully he’ll learn from it and grow over the off-season.

Matt Lodge returns from suspension, while Sean O’Sullivan is the new five-eighth ahead of Chanel Harris-Tavita.

Josh Curran has been named despite his head knock against the Broncos.

Sean O’Sullivan is the new five-eighth with Chanel Harris-Tavita omitted.

Kodi Nikorima is back on the bench after the birth of his second child.

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Raiders

Like the same rerun of Friends that you’ve seen 1,000 times (the one where Joey says “How you doin?”, Monica is neurotic about something, Ross and Rachel are on a break, Chandler cracks horrible jokes, and Phoebe is adorably kooky), Canberra again blew a double-digits lead, this time against Manly Warringah at Lang Park, losing 19-18. The Raiders worked hard to lead 12-0 at halftime (tries to Harley Smith-Shields and Bailey Simonsson), before Manly scored through Haumole Olakau’atu, Morgan Harper, and Curtis Sironen to take an 18-12 lead, before a Daly Cherry-Evans field goal pushed their lead to seven. It was vital, as the returning Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad scored a late try (making up for an earlier mistake that led to a Manly try), but Canberra couldn’t pull off a miracle. To be frank, they didn’t deserve it, as Manly dominated the second half.

There’s some big inclusions for Canberra, with Matt Frawley replacing Sam Williams. While Williams is beloved in Canberra, he’s had plenty of chances to make the halfback spot his own after George Williams left. Is Ricky Stuart starting to prepare for 2022 with Frawley as a long-term halfback option?

Jordan Rapana stays at fullback with CNK coming off the bench again.

Corey Horsburgh is back from his Bulldogs loan stint and joins the returning Siliva Havili on the bench.

PREVIEW

While Canberra are still the dreaded ‘mathematical chance’ (needing to beat the Warriors and the Sydney Roosters), their 2021 campaign realistically ended against Manly. Though they’ve done well to still be in the race after their ‘rock bottom’ loss to the Titans at Bruce in Round 16, they’ve hurt themselves by blowing halftime leads.

Sorry Raiders fans, this will get ugly:

Round Three: led the Warriors 25-6 at halftime, lost 34-31.

Round Seven: led North Queensland 24-12, lost 26-24.

Round Eight: led South Sydney 16-14, lost 34-20.

Round Nine: led Newcastle 16-0, lost 24-16.

Round 15: led St George Illawarra 14-6, lost 22-20.

If the Raiders had flipped at least half of those losses, then they’d be comfortably sitting in the eight; convert all of them into wins and they’d be a top four chance.

Can the Raiders rebound in 2022? While they’ve re-signed a lot of their NSW Cup players, they’ve had no luck getting a new halfback. Will Jack Wighton rediscover his 2019/20 form? Assuming that CNK stays fit, where will the prodigious Xavier Savage fit into the first grade team? Will Canberra start to shed their ‘2019 footy’ defence-oriented mentality and finally update their game for V’landysball?

The Warriors have endured a similarly frustrating season, with seven straight losses from round 12 to 19.

Some of them were demoralising: 29-28 vs North Queensland, 42-16 vs Melbourne, 19-18 vs St George Illawarra (somehow blowing an 18-6 lead with 10 minutes left), and 60-22 vs South Sydney.

Just like the Raiders, the Warriors had rallied with three straight wins to keep their faint finals hopes alive, before the Broncos loss ended their season.

Despite missing the finals again, the Warriors have a lot to look forward to in 2022, with Shaun Johnson returning and new players like the excellent Walsh, and mid-season singings Matt Lodge and Addin Fonua-Blake, getting full off-seasons under their belts. Hopefully they get to return home next year as playing at Mt Smart Stadium (infront of their passionate fans who’ve been starved of live footy) will surely drive them to a few more wins. With two more games left in 2021, the Warriors can start building momentum for a hopefully more successful 2022. The Warriors have a recent habit of slipping under the Raiders’ guard, so if they can mess with Canberra’s heads early they’ll have a big chance.

KEY STAT

Both Raiders and Warriors fans will still remember the ridiculous clash at Bruce in round three. Despite losing Joe Tapine (ankle), Ryan James (HIA), and Sebastian Kris (HIA), the Raiders rallied to lead 31-10 in the second half. Then it was the Warriors’ turn to rally, including a try to Ben Murdoch-Masila off THAT forward pass. After all that excitement, it took the spectacular ‘Hand of Roger’ tackle to stop Jordan Rapana from scoring the game-winning try.

Then there was the upset win in the final round of 2019 when – with a top four spot secured – the Raiders rested a bunch of stars, and the 2018 clash at Bruce, when Johnson sealed a come-from-behind 20-19 win with two field goals in the final two minutes.

Even though the Raiders won both 2020 clashes comfortably (20-6 and 26-14), the Warriors led the return clash 14-6 before the flustered Raiders regained control and put the game away.

Overall, the Raiders lead 21-20 since 1998.

PREDICTION

If the Raiders want to salvage their nightmare season and maybe squeeze into the eight, they need to win here. It won’t be pretty, but Canberra should grind their way to victory.

Raiders by two.

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