Next two games ‘make or break’ for Raiders’ season

Henry Jacobs 20 July 2020
Canberra Raiders

With a win over the reigning premiers last weekend, it’s getting harder for the Raiders to claim underdog status. Photo: Canberra Raiders.

After last week’s gutsy grand final rematch win over the Roosters, the Raiders are well aware that the next fortnight could define their 2020 season.

Sixth-placed Canberra host eighth-placed South Sydney on Saturday night before travelling to Townsville the following week to face a Cowboys side in disarray following Monday’s departure of coach Paul Green.

At the halfway mark of the regular season the form guide suggests the Green Machine should come out on top both in matches and bolster their push for a top-four finish.

The squad is brimming with confidence following their win over the Roosters, but forward Elliot Whitehead admits maintaining focus is crucial for a side that has been accustomed to playing the underdog role in recent weeks.

“The next two games are probably the ones that are going to make or break our season so we need some wins,” the Englishman said.

“We’ve got a lot of injuries but we’ve shown the depth in the squad is capable of beating any team.”

The Raiders’ most recent meeting with the Rabbitohs was a 16-10 win in last year’s preliminary final. Souths travel to Canberra Stadium this weekend with a depleted backline, missing the likes of suspended NSW Origin star Latrell Mitchell, but they still pack plenty of quality across the park.

“It’s going to be a big game, they’re playing some good rugby as well at the moment so I’m sure Wayne Bennett will have that side raring to go,” Whitehead said.

“They’ve got some quality players. Damien Cook at hooker is one of the best in the competition. They’re definitely going to come up here with the attitude that they can get the win.”

Jordan Rapana

Raiders back Jordan Rapana. Photo: Canberra Raiders.

Ricky Stuart will also tweak his backline after a hamstring injury to centre Michael Oldfield. Jordan Rapana shifted from wing to right centre against the Roosters and could be called on again if Curtis Scott doesn’t recover from an arm infection.

“It doesn’t matter where I play, I’m just happy to be a part of the team,” Rapana said.

“I think I speak on behalf of all the other boys that can cover centre – wherever Ricky needs us we’ll put our hand up and play that position as well as we can.”

The Raiders’ depth has been tested in recent weeks after a spate of injuries in the forward pack. Siliva Havili and Tommy Starling shared hooking duties last week, in the absence of co-captain Josh Hodgson and will do so again against the Rabbitohs.

“I thought they were outstanding for us on the weekend. Tommy Starling coming off the bench played big minutes and proved a lot of people wrong,” Whitehead said.

“They’re all digging deep and a few of them are going to get their chances over the coming weeks.”

Canberra Raiders v South Sydney Rabbitohs – Saturday, 25 July, 7:35 pm.

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