It’s been great to see New Zealand international Jordan Rapana back in the nation’s capital, especially as the winger has confirmed his spot in the starting line-up for the Canberra Raiders.
He’ll certainly be needed when the Green Machine takes on the seventh-placed Manly Sea Eagles this Sunday (June 21) at Campbelltown Stadium.
The Raiders go into their clash with the Sea Eagles after picking up the two points in a tightly contested match against the West Tigers last week, while Manly will look to build on their impressive 18-point comeback against the Brisbane Broncos.
Games have only been decided by four points or less in five of the last six encounters between the two outfits, so fans should expect Sunday’s clash to go down to the absolute wire.
Rapana’s return to Canberra was welcomed with open arms after initially leaving the club at the end of last season to pursue a career in rugby union in Japan, but due to the effects of COVID-19, his tenure in Asia was cut very short.
He marked his return for the Raiders with a try in the side’s impressive victory against the Melbourne Storm a few weeks ago and we all expect to see Raps cross the white line many more times as the shortened campaign continues.
The 30-year-old said it’s important the Raiders back up from their effort against the Tigers.
“It’s always good to be back in the starting team; it was a tough game on the weekend,” Rapana said. “There were a few of us boys that were battered and bruised but it was good to get the win. It’s good that we pretty much have the same side to go ahead against the Sea Eagles.”
Youngster Bailey Simonsson spoke on his great relationship with Rapana despite the competition for places in the team in the lead up to the Storm match and though Simonsson has dropped to the reserves due to his teammate’s return, Rapana appreciates how understanding he has been of the selection.
“Bailey is a humble young kid and I know the sort of person he is,” Rapana mentioned. “He’s got the mentality to always put the team first and obviously Ricky has gone with four forwards this week against a strong Manly forward pack, so that is something that we need.”
The winger only saw the positives of returning to a place he holds close to his heart.
“Looking back to the start of the year and everything that happened, I’m grateful to be back in rugby league, but more importantly the Raiders,” Rapana said. “It worked out very well for me and I am very fortunate to be back with my mates and back playing where I love.”
Rapana stated that given the similarities between the two outfits, it will bring the best out of the Raiders come Sunday.
“They are a quality team if you look at their games this season, they are always fighting and know how to grind teams down,” Rapana said. “Their forward pack allows them to get a lot of momentum and Daly Cherry-Evans controls the game really well.
“The reason every time we have gone up against them and it’s been so close is because I think we are a very similar team to them in the aspect that we stay in the game and grind it out until the final whistle. We need to make sure we match them and start strong.”
Raiders fans will see the return of Hudson Young on the interchange bench after serving his eight-game suspension, which started last season.
Canberra Raiders round six team list vs Many Sea Eagles
1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 2. Jordan Rapana, 3. Jarrod Croker (C), 4. Curtis Scott, 5. Nick Cotric, 6. Jack Wighton, 7. George Williams, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Josh Hodgson (C), 10. Sia Soliola, 11. Joe Tapine, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Corey Horsburgh, 14. Siliva Havili, 15. Emre Guler, 16. Ryan Sutton, 17. Hudson Young.
18. Dunamis Lui, 19. Bailey Simonsson, 20. Matt Frawley, 21. Tom Starling.
John Bateman – Shoulder – Indefinite.