Canberra enjoy a rare Channel Nine Friday night game when they play the Wests Tigers at Bankwest Stadium.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Wests picked up two points from the round 12 bye, keeping them just outside the eight. Their 5-6 record summarises their inconsistency, especially after winning their opening two games. They’ll play their second game at Bankwest Stadium (their first official home game), after a horrific belting from Parramatta on Easter Monday.
Canberra scored a vital win over Canterbury last Saturday night. Minus the injured Josh Hodgson and Origin reps Jack Wighton, Nick Cotric and Josh Papalii, the Raiders shot to a 10-0 lead through Sebastian Kris (his first NRL try) and the returning John Bateman. While Canterbury levelled the scores in the second half, a two-man stripping penalty allowed Jarrod Croker to kick a penalty goal with 10 minutes left. Canberra held on, thanks to brilliant late tackle from Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad that defused a last-ditch Bulldogs break. The win kept Canberra in fifth, still behind Newcastle on points differential. This is Canberra’s first game at Bankwest and – in an interesting coincidence (or scheduling genius) – the ACT Brumbies play the NSW Waratahs at Bankwest 24 hours later. It could be a big long weekend for Canberra sports fans.
Wests have one change, welcoming back Moses Mbye from Origin.
Wests Tigers squad: 1. Moses Mbye 2. Robert Jennings 3. Paul Momirovski 4. Esan Marsters 5. Corey Thompson 6. Benji Marshall 7. Luke Brooks 8. Ben Matulino 9. Robbie Farah 10. Alex Twal 11. Ryan Matterson 12. Chris McQueen 13. Matt Eisenhuth 14. Jacob Liddle 15. Thomas Mikaele 16. Josh Aloiai 17. Michael Chee-Kam 18. David Nofoaluma 19. Elijah Taylor 20. Chris Lawrence 21. Mahe Fonua
Some big inclusions for Canberra: their Origin contingent return (Wighton, Cotric, Papalii), joined by Jordan Rapana. Aidan Sezer drops to the extended bench, with Sam Williams partnering Wighton in the halves. Emre Guler replaces a suspended Hudson Young.
Canberra squad: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Bailey Simonsson 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Nick Cotric 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Jack Wighton 7. Sam Williams 8. Josh Papalii 9. Siliva Havili 10. Dunamis Lui 11. John Bateman 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Joseph Tapine 14. Tom Starling 15. Emre Guler 16. Iosia Soliola 17. Ryan Sutton 18. Aidan Sezer 19. Royce Hunt 20. Michael Oldfield 21. Sebastian Kris
HEAD TO HEAD
Canberra have a tremendous recent record against the Wests Tigers, with four straight wins from 2016 to 2018: 60-6 and 52-10 (2016), 46-6 (2017), and 48-12 (2018) – an average winning margin of 43. The Tigers finally got one back in round 22 at Bruce Stadium last year, winning 22-20 and ending Canberra’s slim finals hopes.
Benji Marshall v Jack Wighton. Rugby league produces some bizarre stats: like Benji Marshall’s amazing record against Canberra, with 18 wins from 19 games across three clubs (Wests, St. George-Illawarra and Brisbane). Wighton’s switch from fullback to five eighth has been a big part of Canberra’s resurgence (also allowing the amazing Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad to thrive at fullback). Jack’s ironed out the mistakes and deserved his Origin debut on Wednesday night. With some doubt over Sam Williams or Aidan Sezer as the preferred halfback, Wighton’s continued improvement is even more important. Expect the buzz of his Origin debut to fire Jack up and get the Raiders home.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday 7 June.
Venue: Bankwest Stadium, Sydney.
WHO WILL WIN?
After the bad loss to North Queensland, Canberra rediscovered some grit against Canterbury. That shot of confidence – and a desire to stay in touch with the top four – will be enough to beat the inconsistent Tigers.
Prediction: Canberra by 10.