Match Previews

As well as providing his best value bets every week, our NRL guru Steve Green also previews every NRL game for members. Here’s Steve’s thoughts for every Raiders game.

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NRL Round 18: Raiders v Sharks

The Raiders played their best game of the year, and interestingly it was without Wighton at 6 due to rep duties.

Frawley’s kicking game was amazing and it was the key to the Raiders building pressure and tiring the big Manly forward pack. Off the back of this fatigue, Starling and Sam Williams scored three tries by playing direct and running the ball at the tiring forwards.

It was the first time the Raiders had clearly executed a game plan and it must have been tempting for Stuart to retain this halves pairing and move Wighton to 1 or the centres.

While the Raiders did look much better, it was a heavily weakened Manly team and a close to full strength Sharks team will pose a much bigger challenge this weekend.

The Sharks form had been very impressive and although they have won five of their last six, that winning streak has mainly been due to a soft draw over the past six weeks.

The Broncos showed that controlled, disciplined footy is enough to worry this Sharks line up and I do think the Raiders have an edge in terms of star power.

While the Raiders are still missing Whitehead, I think the Raiders turned a corner in their win against Manly and the move north to get them out of Canberra and in camp for a month, might help the squad get over some of the division that had obviously been bubbling away in the nation’s capital.

On my ratings, this game could go either way and that is why I put forward a small play at the Raiders on the head to head. I will keep it small because I still have concerns about just how cohesive this Raiders team is at the moment. Happy to see odds have shortened, so let us hope Raiders can get the W at the better odds we took earlier in the week.

Predicted score Raiders 20 – Sharks 20

NRL Round 17: Sea Eagles vs Raiders

While I was surprised by the size of the Raiders’ defeat last weekend, I obviously rated the Titans more highly than the rest of the market.

Although some of the Raiders defence was pitiful, I do not think enough credit was given to the Titans attack. The Titans are averaging more line breaks per game than the Panthers and Eels in 2021 and lead the competition in tackle breaks per game. So with Fifita, Thompson, Brimson and co all lining up, the Raiders defence was always going to be put to the test.

So, part of the reason I am backing the Raiders this weekend is because I think the Raiders form line has been unfairly criticised based on last week’s horrible loss to the Titans.

This weekend, although their line-up is weaker on paper, I think some of the forced changes will add some much needed spark. Wighton has not been great at 6 and Simonsson had a shocker at 1, so the inclusion of young Savage at fullback and the journeyman Frawley in the halves is not as bad as it may look.

While losing Papalii is a big one, the Raiders do have the luxury of bringing Ryan James into the 17, so it is still a strong forward pack for the Raiders.

As for Manly, in terms of their best 17, they are missing Tom T (the most damaging player in the game), DCE (the QLD halfback and captain), Jake T (NSW prop), as well as Sironen, Schuster, Davey, Aloiai and Saddler.

With Croker at 9, Walker and Foran in the halves, I do not think we will see the same clinical Manly team we have been used to in recent months.

For example, this Manly line up has a combined 17 Try Assists all year. While Tom T has 19 by himself! DCE has another 15 and Schuster has 5. So, if Manly are going to create points here, the likes of Foran, Cust, Garrick and Walker are going to have to step up in the play making capacity.

Without crowds, the home ground factor is somewhat nullified and although Manly’s team is slightly better on paper, they do not deserve the 13.5 head start on offer here.

Backing a team after they have been flogged always seems like a crazy play, but I think the market has priced this one wrong.

Predicted score Manly 22 – Raiders 18

NRL Round 15: Dragons v Raiders

The Raiders played very well last weekend, but it was against a hapless Broncos, so it is no surprise the bookies are not sure what will occur here.

After a strong start to the season, the Dragons started wobbling due to injuries and suspensions, but with Dufty at the back firing, their attack started to look a lot sharper.

However their loss last weekend to the struggling Doggies showed that they still have a long way to go in their rebuild and there is mail around that Dufty will be replaced at the back by the young Tyrell Sloan.

Lomax is firming for a return, which will be a big inclusion, so there is a lot of uncertainty about how the Dragons will line up here.

As for the Raiders, it is pretty clear they will stick with the squad that played so well against the Broncos.

By completing their sets and defending well, the Raiders played to their strengths, with plenty of second phase play and strong runs by their outside backs.

Hodgson was controlling things brilliantly and Wighton has come back from Origin full of confidence. His running try was as good as an individual run as I have seen all year.

Both of these teams are highly variable at present and with so much uncertainty about how the Dragons will line up and what morale is like due to the likes of Norman and Dufty being shown the door, I have no idea how this match will pan out.

Predicted score Raiders 21 – Dragons 20

NRL Round 14: Raiders v Broncos

With Curtis Scott the latest Raiders to bring drama to the club, you would have to think morale is at rock-bottom in the nation’s capital.

Their opponents however are now so desperate to find a decent halves pairing that Karmichael Hunt gets another shot in the NR, 12 years after he left the competition to try his hand at AFL.

Hunt has been playing well in the QLD Cup, but he is nowhere near carving up the league, so I find this promotion a little strange. Gamble was not great last weekend, but I thought he deserved another go if fully fit.

For the Raiders Timoko gets his first go in the top grade for 2021. While I rate this guy, he also has not been setting the world on fire in reserve grade, so his promotion to first grade has probably come before his time, simply because the Raiders are now without their two first choice centres in Croker and Scott.

After a shocking performance against the Roosters, Aekins has been dropped and Simonsson gets a go at 1. While I like how hard he tries and he is very athletic, I have some serious concerns over when Simonsson has the game awareness to play at fullback. With Albert Kelly’s quality short kicking game, I think there is a chance the Broncos have some luck with the early grubber.

Haas should back up for the desperate Broncos and with Lodge, TPJ and Flegler, the Broncos have an aggressive starting pack. I left out Glenn on purpose, because I really thought he struggled in his comeback game and I am sure the Raiders will try to target the aging back rower.

The Broncos have some really good young forwards on their bench again and they have also dropped their fullback (Isaako) after a shocking performance last weekend, with the ever reliable Farmworth given a shot.

Coates is likely to back up too, so I think the Broncos are not without a chance to spring an upset here.

However with Wighton the stand-out half in this match, Tapine and Papalii back in the forwards and Hodgson back steering the ship at 9, I think the Raiders will be just good enough to nab the win.

Predicted score Raiders 25 – Broncos 18

NRL Round 12: Roosters v Raiders

This game is being played at the Central Coast, so the Roosters home ground advantage is a little less than it would otherwise have been.

This will be an intriguing match, with the Roosters coming off an embarrassing loss to the Broncos and the Raiders being humiliated by a Storm team missing a whole host of their stars.

In fairness to both teams, the Roosters had to go without Radley for 20 minutes due to multiple sin bins, while the Raiders were also without CNK, Tapine, Wighton, Hodgson and Papalii.

As we have since found out, their halfback G Williams was also not in a good place mentally and I think it showed on the field. When the going got tough, the Raiders folded as it became clear they were missing leadership without some of their more senior players out there.

While it is clear the Raiders have some big issues internally, they continue to start games well and it is just an inability to finish off their second halves that sees them dropping game after game.

When Hodgson came back into the team against the Doggies, I thought his leadership was the difference and although they are missing their first choice halfback and fullback, it is still a team that is strong enough to trouble the Roosters. WIghton, Rapana and Hodgson are leaders in this squad, so I am expecting a much mentally tougher Raiders team tonight.

The Roosters welcome back Josh Morris, but they will be without Crichton and Radley due to suspension. With Collins, Cordner, Verrils and Friend all missing from what would have been their top 17 at the beginning of the season, the Roosters are relying on a few bench forwards to step up here.

Furthermore, the Broncos showed that you can target Sam Walker on the fringe of the ruck, and I am sure Jack Wighton will try his chances by running at the diminutive 7 all night long.

On paper, the line here is too big…with news that Sam Walker is likely to be rested (unable to 100% confirm at time of publication), I think the Raiders are a good chance here.

It is unclear how Stuart will use his bench, but I think Hodgson will come on relatively early and most likely play as a ball playing lock, which I really like!

Because they rolled over so spectacularly last weekend, I am not willing to back them to win this one, but I do think such a big head start is too big to ignore here.

For this match, the Roosters team are now likely to be missing S Walker, V Radley, A. Crichton, F Lussick, L. Keary, S. Verrills, J. Friend, D. Hutchison, B. Morris and L. Collins. That means they could be without their first three choice hookers, three halves, three Origin quality forwards and one of the best wingers to ever play the game.

While the Raiders are still without their first choice fullback, their recently departed halfback, and two international forwards, they are nowhere near as depleted as the Roosters and should be right in this match.

Predicted score Roosters 24 – Raiders 20

NRL Round 9: Raiders v Knights

Over the last four weeks the Knights defence has fallen to pieces. From Round 1 to 4, the Knights had less missed tackles than any other team (79 in four games). Since then (from Round 5 – 8), the Knights have missed 137 tackles. That is the third worst in the competition.

While player attitude could be a problem, I think the variance in the strength of the draw is the core issue driving such wild swings.

In the past month, the Knights have played the Titans, Sharks, Panthers and Roosters. Over the course of the season, these teams are among the top of the list in terms of tackle breaks – ie the Panthers (2nd), Titans (4th) and Roosters (5th).

Whereas earlier in the year the Knights were playing against the likes of the Bulldogs (16th in tackle breaks), Dragons (14th in tackle breaks) and Warriors (11th in tackle breaks).

While this does not excuse the Knights’ drop-off in defence, it does show that rather it being purely an attitude problem, the past month has seen them play against some impressive attacking teams.

Unfortunately for the Knights, playing a Raiders team with its backs against the wall, in a small country town is not an easy assignment.

While the Raiders defended poorly at times out wide, overall, it was a very spirited affair, and I am expecting the Green Machine to come out and try to squash the media rumour mill about their being disharmony in the squad.

On my ratings these teams match up quite well at present and although I give the Raiders a slight home advantage, there is too much doubt about the mental state of guys like Tapine, Papallii and G Williams for me to have a bet in this one.

Predicted score Raiders 22 – Knights 16

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