Pretty much everyone bar representative players have had a week off to have a good hard look at themselves. For some teams it was a bye to reflect on the positive outcomes of their hard effort and success, while for others it was a time to rue missed chances. The Raiders were definitely rueing their game against the Panthers. Hot off an absolute walloping of Wests they turned up in Bathurst to exhibit a performance best described as disinterested, frustrating both their coach and fans.
Luckily though, if there’s one thing the Dragons do good is trigger an appearance of the good Raiders personality. Admittedly St George have had bragging rights over the last few years, but it’s still small crumbs compared to the massive and infamous hoodoo the Raiders held over them for more than a decade.
Ricky will no doubt be trying to channel this magic in the lead up to Thursday nights clash (don’t forget!). The Raiders have their same 17 man squad from the last round, while the Dragons welcome back a trio of players including former Raider Joel Thompson. Both sides have a rep player backing up: Josh Dugan at fullback for the Dragons and Josh Papali in the 2nd row for the Green Machine.
It only takes a single win for the hoodoo to start up all over again.
Battle of the Big Boppers
On paper this contest is a no brainer – The Raiders have Vaughan, Boyd, Papali, Whitehead and Fensom, plus a rapidly improving Bateman and a surprise packet in Priest and the youthful enthusiasm of Tapine. The Dragons have Joel Thompson, Russell Packer and Tyson Frizell.
Two of the above players are very much deserving of Origin jumpers this year, and they’re both Raiders. Papali has been good enough to earn himself a Kangaroos call-up, whilst anything other than Blues selection for Vaughan means that selectors are completely mad.
Your cue, Maestro
As I said in the Panthers match review both Sezer and Austin were less than impressive in the last outing, possibly due to an over-reliance on the talents of Josh Hodgson. While the competitions greatest rake (we say, impartially) may be well rested after a week off he still needs his halves to quickly pick up the slack – Sezer needs to regain his control on long range positional kicking whilst Austin needs to throw caution to the wind and start running to the line. If they can both play straight they can unlock the potential of the Raiders go-forward ability.
Ricky was probably thrilled with his team after Bathurst (I don’t know how to emphasise sarcasm in text) so he’ll no doubt be threatening to lock players in the cupboard with Frank-Paul Nuuausala if they don’t start aiming up. Surprisingly he gave his representative weekend players (especially the Country lads) the choice of opting out of Thursday nights game to avoid the short turnaround – so far they’ve all been named (Phew).
Paul McGregor really needs a Dragons win to bring him some bright news after the Dragons went down to the Warriors days after he got busted for low range DUI.
Lucky Numbers Player Bingo
#5 Jordan Rapana #1 Josh Dugan
#7 Aidan Sezer #7 Benji Marshall
#9 Josh Hodgson #11 Tyson Frizell
#10 Paul Vaughan #Joel Thompson
You just really never know with the Raiders – one week you get Dr Jekyll and a smashing of the Tigers, and then the next week you get Mr Hyde and a half assed display against the Panthers. We can only hope that the week off has given them time to (a) train up good, (b) formulate an actual plan and study and (c) watch inspirational footage of all the times they’ve broken the Dragons spirit.
Raiders by 20!