The season might not be quite halfway through but this match is reaching crunch proportions for both sides, particularly for home team the Raiders.
Both Canberra and the Warriors have been below par compared to how they ended 2008 and need to get a quick turnaround of form or face being also-rans for 2009.
The Raiders were humbled by Melbourne last Monday night to now be mired in a four-game losing streak while the Warriors capitulated against the Cowboys at the death last weekend to post back-to-back losses.
Canberra now sits well down the ladder in 14th while the Warriors aren’t much better, sitting in 11th.
If wins don’t start flowing, the top eight will become a faint hope in the distance and then before long, an unreachable Everest to climb.
The home side has kept the side belted by the Storm, presumably hoping the squad will want to atone for the humiliation, doing nothing but adding Joe Picker to a five-man bench.
The Warriors come into the match without Nathan Fien, which prompts a re-shuffle. Joel Moon moves from centre to five-eighth with Patrick Ah Van joining the team at centre. Jesse Royal and Aaron Heremaia have been added to a six-man bench.
Watch out Raiders: The Warriors have a handful of players who are making mammoth metres in a match, ensuring the side has good field position. They may not have taken full advantage of said position but it’s only a matter of time before they do.
Steve Price (151 metres), Manu Vatuvei (136 metres), Wade McKinnon (131 metres), Russell Packer (119 metres), Jerome Ropati (108 metres) and Sam Rapira (104 metres) are all averaging triple figures and need to be contained, otherwise the home side will be on the back foot all afternoon.
The Raiders needs to win the wrestle in the ruck or the Warriors will just roll over the top of them.
Watch out Warriors: Joel Monaghan will appear in his 100th match for Canberra here, with the carrot of a New South Wales jersey on the line.
A Raiders junior, Monaghan spent some time away with the Roosters but is now the marquee man in the Green Machine and knows he needs to play as such to help his side climb the ladder. Media reports also suggest Terry Campese needs a huge game to secure a place in the sky blue jersey, so he’ll be just as primed to take down the Warriors.
Monaghan averages 89 metres a match, has six line-breaks, 30 broken tackles and three tries while Campese has two line-breaks, eight line-break assists, 11 try assists and is kicking 365 metres a match. Both will need massive performances for both their own benefit and the teams.
Where it will be won: Execution. The Raiders have lost the free-flowing attack that was a feature of their play last season, so much so that they are now running last in line breaks. Either they need to execute better when they move the ball laterally, or abandon the plan altogether and concentrate on basic football again.
The same can be said for the Warriors. They are making too many mistakes when chances come their way, killing off any chance of building pressure or piling on points. Usually, when execution is an issue, the only way to fix things is through simple football. It helps to rebuild confidence; and with confidence comes luck – and with luck and confidence combined you see attack flowing rather than breaking down.
The History: Played 22; Raiders 12, Warriors 10. The Warriors have won five of the past eight between the clubs; however the Raiders have two of the past three. At Canberra Stadium the Raiders enjoy a 7-1 record over the Warriors – with the visitors not tasting success at the venue since 1997.
Conclusion: This is a tough match to tip, as both sides are struggling for confidence and execution.
The Warriors have shown form in patches this season, something the Raiders have struggled to do, which makes you lean slightly in their favour, but they have been awful in Canberra, not winning in the nation’s capital since Super League days.
Canberra have been losing matches like the Sharks and Roosters, however they haven’t looked as poor as those sides, giving you the feeling they might just pull off an upset some time soon. The Monday turnaround doesn’t help Canberra so if you want to back the Raiders be aware of all the factors. They certainly can win, and gut feeling says they just might – but the Warriors might still be the safer bet.
Match officials: Referees – Jared Maxwell & Bernard Sutton; Sideline Officials – Jeff Younis & Ricky McFarlane; Video Ref – Russell Smith.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live 2pm.
* Statistics: NRL Stats.