Ricky demands Raiders redemption after Sharks rout

Jacob Shteyman |

The return of Elliott Whitehead (c) has helped the Raiders bounce back from their Sharks’ humbling.
The return of Elliott Whitehead (c) has helped the Raiders bounce back from their Sharks’ humbling.

Despite two morale-boosting come-from-behind wins on the trot, Ricky Stuart remains plagued by memories of his Canberra side’s last outing at home.

The “embarrassment” of the Raiders’ 40-0 humbling at the hands of ladder-leading Cronulla in April is driving Stuart to ensure it won’t be repeated against the high-flying Sydney Roosters on Saturday.

“You’re not going to win every game. But those performances, they’re not us,” the Raiders coach said. 

“We’ve shown in the last two weeks that performance against Cronulla is gone now – but it still lingers because you don’t want those performances.”

How much a month can change in the NRL.

Outside the top eight and with key players injured, Canberra’s season seemed all at sea after their round-eight mauling.

Fast forward to round 12 and the Raiders are in the top eight, captain Elliott Whitehead is back and the return of Corey Harawira-Naera and Pasami Saulo from injury is not far off. 

Further boosts have come with young guns Kaeo Weekes and Ethan Strange thriving in the NRL and Stuart signing a new deal keeping him at the club until the end of 2029.

Suddenly, it’s all positive vibes in Canberra and the faithful can feel it, with the club expecting about 20,000 fans to pack GIO Stadium on Saturday.

“The boys love playing in front of a big crowd,” Stuart said.

“And they know how rusted on they are, they know how loyal and passionate our supporter group is. 

“The feeling when you get to GIO with a big crowd is something that you’re grateful for. You love having a big crowd there and it does lift the boys.”

The Raiders will need all the motivation they can get to subdue the free-scoring Roosters. 

The Tricolours have amassed 30 points or more in each of their last four outings and will be eager to re-enter the winners’ circle after being outplayed by the Sharks last time out.

Powerful winger Dom Young will be a key threat after his double against Cronulla, while Joseph Aukuso-Suaalii and skipper James Tedesco will be fired up to prove their NSW Blues credentials in their final audition before coach Michael Maguire names his first State of Origin squad.

Emre Guler will start in the front row for the Raiders and Peter Hola will come onto the bench in place of the suspended Josh Papali’i.

The Roosters will be without Connor Watson, whose Blues hopes have been hit by the news he is expected to miss three to four weeks with a throat injury.

“He’s been in really good form, he’s pushing for (Origin) selection and now he can’t play,” Roosters coach Trent Robinson said. 

“(It’s) disappointing for him but we also can’t risk something more serious.”

AAP