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The Canberra Raiders have copped a fair bit of criticism over the past few weeks, being labelled as a team that ‘isn’t ready to play finals’ or is ‘just making up the numbers’.
While for many this may seem the case, this isn’t all true. While the Raiders continue to be in close games and struggle to beat many teams, they continue to win. The Raiders enter the last two rounds having to play against the Broncos and Sharks, two teams that are well in contention for this year’s premiership.
The nation’s capital team have the sixth worst for and against in the competition, mainly because their largest winning margin is 12 points, achieved last round against the Bulldogs.
Canberra was without their star man Jack Wighton in their win over Canterbury and still managed to put them away in the end with a late Bulldogs try pulling them back to within the 1-12 margin the Raiders haven’t been able to escape. Wighton has been named in the reserves this week against the Broncos but may be a late into the starting team to boost their chances of winning. He’ll add the much-needed spark they require to fight against the top teams.
They have found a consistent forward pack through Joseph Tapine, their captain Elliot Whitehead, Hudson Young, the experienced Josh Papali’i and arguably the best lock in the competition this season, Corey Horsburgh.
Horsburgh has been cleared by the Raiders independent doctors and has been named in the starting lineup this week after a head knock late in the contest against the Bulldogs.
Finding a fullback who can fill the role week in week out has been a problem for the Raiders all season especially with the departure of Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad this season, but it seems those problems have been fixed.
Jordan Rapana has found a spot at fullback and is beginning to find great form. Rapana had three try assists, a try, ten line breaks and 187 metres in a great day out. Along with young Matt Timoko, who could be considered one of the best centres in the competition this year and continues to show his strengths every week.
Canberra have defeated both of their upcoming opponents earlier in the season and should fancy their chances in their upcoming games. Should they win both of their games they will guarantee a home final and even a top four chance should the Storm lose one of their games.
If Canberra can get a home final and come fifth, they would play one of the teams fighting for the eighth position at GIO Stadium. If this is the case, they will get a maximum capacity crowd for a surely emotional last home game for the club for Jarrod Croker and Jack Wighton.
As seen the Raiders can compete with any team on their day, especially on their home ground. Their recent record against teams such as the Broncos (4 of their last 5), Sharks (9 in a row), Rabbitohs (4 of their last 5), Storm (5 out of the last six when playing in Melbourne) shows how dominant they can be against teams good enough to win the premiership.
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