After the fires, smoke and hail, ‘unprecedented’ is already the most overused word of 2020, but it perfectly describes tomorrow’s round two match between the Canberra Raiders and New Zealand Warriors.
This match was initially scheduled as a Warriors home game in New Zealand but will instead be played on the Gold Coast.
They will also be playing the game behind closed doors with a crowd in the low hundreds if last night’s Cowboys-Bulldogs game is any guide.
The challenge only grows for the Warriors. Due to coronavirus travel restrictions, the side hasn’t been able to return to New Zealand since their opening-round loss against the Newcastle Knights.
Despite all the chaos surrounding coronavirus, the Australian side at least has the luxury of being able to see their families, which hasn’t been the case for the Warriors whose families are waiting for them back across the ditch.
And no one knows when they’ll be able to return home due to travel bans imposed by both the New Zealand and Australian governments.
— Jarrod Croker (@Jarrodcroker) March 18, 2020
Raiders fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad used to wear the Warriors colours and has reached out to a few of his old teammates.
“I have spoken to a couple of them without going into too much detail, but more so seeing where their heads are at and if they’re ok,” Nicoll-Klokstad said. “They are in a hard situation at the moment.”
So too is Raiders coach Ricky Stuart, although his focus is on game day.
Stuart saw co-captain Jarrod Croker and Nicoll-Klokstad leave the field with head knocks last week against the Gold Coast Titans and although he revealed that both are fine to play this weekend, he is fortunate to have suitable personnel in his roster to come off the bench.
“I said to Michael Oldfield, every time I have put an outside back on the bench we have had to use them,” Stuart mentioned. “In my eyes, it’s good fortune. It happened last year where Joseph Leilua got the firecracker in his eye and we had Bailey Simonsson on the bench. It’s looked at as either good fortune or good management … I’ll take it as good management.”
The Warriors head into Saturday with a win in their last match-up against the Raiders in round 25 last season where the kiwis nipped a narrow 24-20 victory in Canberra.
Stuart has named an unchanged starting 13 for the Warriors clash.
Ryan Sutton makes his return to the extended squad after serving a one-game suspension while youngster Harley Smith-Shields has also been added to the squad.
Team list for the Raiders round two v New Zealand Warriors
1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 2. Bailey Simonsson, 3. Jarrod Croker (C), 4. Curtis Scott, 5. Nick Cotric, 6. Jack Wighton, 7. George Williams, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Josh Hodgson (C), 10. Dunamis Lui, 11. Joe Tapine, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Corey Horsburgh.
14. Siliva Havili, 15. Emre Guler, 16. Sia Soliola, 17. Michael Oldfield, 18. Sam Williams, 19. Ryan Sutton, 20. Harley Smith- Shields, 21. Tom Starling.
Hudson Young (Suspended) – Round 6
John Bateman (Shoulder) – Round 7-8.