2023 NRL Magic Round Preview: Bulldogs Vs Raiders

Andrew Pelechaty previews the opening game of Magic Round 2023.



Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Vs Canberra Raiders
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Date: Friday May 5, 6:00pm


Bulldogs: 1. Hayze Perham 2. Jacob Kiraz 3. Jake Averillo 4. Paul Alamoti 5. Declan Casey 6. Josh Reynolds 7. Matt Burton 8. Max King 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Tevita Pangai Junior 11. Corey Waddell 12. Jacob Preston 13. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 14. Karl Oloapu 15. Jayden Okunbor 16. Franklin Pele 17. Samuel Hughes 19. Kurtis Morrin 20. Jackson Topine 21. Harrison Edwards 22. Kyle Flanagan 23. Blake Wilson

Raiders: 1. Sebastian Kris 2. Xavier Savage 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. Pasami Saulo 17. Ata Mariota 18. Brad Schneider 19. James Schiller 20. Trey Mooney 21. Corey Harawira-Naera 22. Peter Hola

Referee: Chris Sutton

Embed from Getty Images


The opening match of Magic Round 2023 promises to be a tight affair between two sides locked in the mid-table logjam.

While Canberra have won their past six games against Canterbury-Bankstown (going back to 2018), two were by two points (including a 20-18 win in Magic Round 2021), and one by four points. And the biggest margin in that period was only 16 points.

Both sides had tough wins in Round 9: Canberra beating The Dolphins 31-30 in Golden Point and Canterbury-Bankstown beating St. George Illawarra 18-16.

Canberra’s win was a “typical” Raiders victory: they raced to an 18-0 lead after 22 minutes (tries to Jarrod Croker, Jack Wighton, and Jordan Rapana), but let the Dolphins back into the game. While they still had a handy 22-12 half-time lead, the Raiders’ previously expansive attack shut down, scoring just one second half try as the Dolphins took the game to Golden Point at 30-30. The Raiders hadn’t kicked a field goal in nearly two years, and it showed, with Jamal Fogarty missing with his first shot, then bizarrely not taking one in the final minutes of regulation time. But he made up for it in the 83rd minute. And any doubts about Jack Wighton’s commitment to Canberra were silenced after an emotional post-game interview.

The Dogs had a morale-boosting win over the Dragons on Sunday. While it’s been a rough season with a horror injury toll, they’ve been competitive in most of their games and deserved this win. It was neck-and-neck all game, with the Dragons coming back from a 10-4 half-time deficit, though Jake Averillo’s second try (another long-range effort) gave the Dogs a big enough buffer. The encouraging thing was they held onto their 18-16 lead for the last 20 minutes and made 22 more tackles than the Dragons (333 to 311), even after they were down to 12 men with Corey Waddell’s sin bin.

Braidon Burns is out with an MCL for Canterbury, with Jacob Kiraz replacing him. Max King also returns.

A big in for Canberra, with Xavier Savage playing his first game since the trials, and his first NRL game since last year’s semi-final against Parramatta. He’s named on the wing – with Seb Kris staying at fullback for now. Ata Mariota replaces Corey Harawira-Naera.

The Dogs’ best chance here is to lock the Raiders in a grinding battle (they’ve only conceded an average of 16 points in their four wins), wait for the Milk to get frustrated and make unforced errors, let Matt Burton terrorise the Raiders’ back three, and back their defence.

If Canberra get off to a fast start, they should be experienced enough to hang on (and they have some momentum from three straight wins), though expect the Dogs to come back and make Raiders fans nervous.

Could this be a Golden Point start to Magic Round?


Raiders 8, Bulldogs 2


Raiders by two points.

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