7 July 2020

Crowd boost welcome as injury-ravaged Raiders prepare for Storm

| Henry Jacobs
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The Raiders at Canberra Stadium

The Raiders take the field for a game at Canberra Stadium. Photo: Tim Gavel.

The ACT Government has given the Raiders a boost ahead of Saturday’s clash with the Melbourne Storm, increasing the number of fans allowed to attend matches to nearly 6,000.

The men in green will be needing all the help they can get after a literally bruising encounter on the weekend that left two forwards sidelined and Sia Soliola’s face shattered.

After the successful turnout of 1500 fans at Raiders and Brumbies games on the weekend, Chief Minister Andrew Barr is confident more people can be safely accommodated at Canberra Stadium.

“We do recognise that the venue can accommodate more people with physical distancing and could do so safely … what we’ll be working towards is around 25 per cent of seated capacity,” he said.

“Tickets will still be a little rare, but not quite as rare as they were on the weekend.”

A ban on Victorians entering the ACT after a surge of coronavirus cases in Melbourne will not affect the Storm as the team relocated to Queensland a fortnight ago.

“The NRL has a really good regime in place, they worked this through very closely with public health officials in designing it,” Mr Barr said.

“We can have confidence in the health validity of that regime provided it’s stuck to and the players do the right thing.”

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At least my teeth are intact ?

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The Raiders are without four forwards after Sia Soliola (face) and Emre Guler (ankle) joined John Bateman (shoulder) and Corey Horsburgh (foot) on the sidelines following their win over the Dragons. Winger Jordan Rapana could also miss round nine with a calf injury.

Lock Ryan Sutton will likely start for just the second time this season but believes there is enough depth to tackle the NRL’s third-placed side.

“Wherever I play on the field, whether it be off the bench or starting I want to make sure that I’m playing my best rugby … not taking any minute for granted,” the Englishman said.

“So if I’m starting, making sure that I’m hitting the ground running straight away – not waiting for that five to 10 minutes to get into the game.”

Veteran Josh Papalii is set for a return to the starting side after coming from the bench against St George Illawarra while Joe Tapine will challenge Sutton for the number 13 jersey.

“Hopefully I can solidify the position, but if it’s not it’s always good to rotate,” Sutton said.

“We’ve got that mix that we can have people coming off the bench and people starting and there’s no real dramatic change in what happens with the performance.”

Soliola met with a surgeon on Monday to determine the severity of his facial fracture. He is likely to endure an extended stint away from the game and may not return this season.

The shortage of big men could force the Raiders to seek reinforcements elsewhere before the extended transfer deadline of 3 August.

The NRL is currently reviewing a compensation application for Wigan-bound Bateman who has not played this season after injuring his shoulder during Great Britain’s loss to Papua New Guinea in November.

The ‘Josh Hodgson rule’ allows clubs to seek up to $350,000 in salary cap relief if a player is injured during a representative game and will miss a minimum of 12 club games. Bateman is believed to be paid around $580,000 a season.

In the short-term, versatile Samoan international Dunamis Lui looms as a solution for Ricky Stuart after missing selection for the last three outings.

The 30-year-old, who can cover prop, second-row and lock, has played in three consecutive wins over Melbourne and will bring much-needed experience to the forward pack.

The Raiders have lost the last two meetings between the sides at Canberra Stadium but can notch a fourth consecutive victory over the Storm for the first time after three straight wins in Melbourne.

Canberra Raiders v Melbourne Storm – Saturday, 10 July, 7:35 pm.

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