Andrew Pelechaty previews a historic game in Canberra.
MATCHDAY TEAM NEWS
Raiders: 1. Sebastian Kris 2. Albert Hopoate 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Matthew Timoko 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Jack Wighton 7. Jamal Fogarty 8. Josh Papali’i 9. Zac Woolford 10. Joseph Tapine 11. Hudson Young 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Corey Horsburgh 14. Tom Starling 15. Emre Guler 16. Nick Cotric 17. Pasami Saulo 18. Matt Frawley 19. Danny Levi 20. Ata Mariota 21. Xavier Savage 22. Peter Hola
Warriors: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 3. Ali Leiataua 4. Adam Pompey 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Luke Metcalf 7. Shaun Johnson 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Wayde Egan 10. Bunty Afoa 11. Jackson Ford 12. Marata Niukore 13. Tohu Harris 14. Bayley Sironen 15. Josh Curran 16. Mitchell Barnett 17. Tom Ale 18. Ronald Volkman 20. Taine Tuaupiki 21. Freddy Lussick 22. Brayden Wiliame 23. Zyon Maiu’u
Referee: Grant AtkinsEmbed from Getty Images
This Friday night is one of the biggest sporting events in Canberra since the 2019 preliminary final.
Jarrod Croker will play his 300th NRL game infront of his home fans, who will hopefully fill Bruce Stadium to celebrate his achievement. It’s a massive weekend for Canberra football fans, with the Brumbies playing their Super Rugby Pacific quarter final on Saturday night.
It’s a remarkable achievement considering Croker only played one NRL game in 2022, returned through NSW Cup, and seemed unlikely to play first grade again. He played in Canberra’s 2008 Toyota Cup premiership and debuted in first grade in 2009. He has the records for most tries (134), most points in a season (296 in 2016), and most points for the club (2,274). He’s the second Raider (after Jason Croker on 318) to reach 300 games.
But the New Zealand Warriors won’t roll out the green carpet for Jarrod. They’ve won at Bruce in 2018, 2019, and 2021. And they led 14-0 in 2022 before losing 26-14. The Warriors have enjoyed their best season since 2018, sitting just behind Canberra in the top eight. They’ve shown a lot more resilience under Andrew Webster, rebounding from the controversial “Baby Broncos” loss to comfortably beat The Dolphins 30-8 last weekend. And former Raider Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad will be looking for a successful return to Bruce Stadium. Knowing the history of former Raiders scoring against Canberra, mark him down for at least one try.
While Canberra have won seven of their last eight, it hasn’t been easy. They led the Tigers 18-0 after 67 minutes last Friday, then Tom Starling’s sin bin triggered a Tigers comeback: it only took them seven minutes to lead 19-18, with converted tries to Jahream Bula, John Bateman, and Brandon Wakeham, and a Luke Brooks field goal. A Jamal Fogarty penalty goal saved Canberra from an embarrassing loss after being so dominant.
The Warriors have shown they can come from behind against Canberra – like last year in Redcliffe, when they erased a 20-12 half-time deficit to win 21-20 with a Shaun Johnson field goal. If Canberra don’t show the Warriors the respect they deserve, the New Zealanders will punish them, especially if Johnson gets on a roll.
A surprise inclusion for Canberra, with Elliott Whitehead returning after suspension/injury. Croker’s return sees Albert Hopoate go back to the wing and Nick Cotric to the bench.
Only one change for the Warriors: Ali Leiataua makes his NRL debut in the centres.
Canberra have a history of rising for big games, and they don’t get much bigger than this, especially after all the controversy over resting Croker to play his 300th in Canberra (which fuelled Ricky’s emotional “muppets” press conference after the Tigers game). The Raiders should win for Croker but it’ll be another tight one.
LAST TEN MATCHES
Raiders 5 Warriors 5
Raiders by two points.
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