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Storm v Raiders
Sunday 2pm

If ever the Green Machine needed to be ‘bad and mean’ like their team song suggests, it’s right here, right now. They need to be ‘big and strong’, ‘fast and mean’ and they need to ‘hit ’em hard so they see green’… otherwise it could be curtains on their season.

While it is true the Raiders could lose two of their last six and still get to 28 points, their negative differential would probably have them miss out on the finals anyway. They need to aim at 30 points – five from six. A loss here would put them into sudden death – not where you want to be with more than a month of football left that includes games against the two top sides.

It’s a tough spot for the Raiders – just when they really need to keep winning they are heading to Melbourne, a place where they have lost 15 of their past 16 matches – to play a side with a handful of superstars who have a dangerous, carefree attitude.

After disposing of the Sea Eagles, Knights and Sharks in recent weeks the Raiders have climbed to 11th on the ladder, just a win off eighth.

A victory here would probably only lift them to 10th in the best of circumstances, but they could well be level on points with the eighth-ranked side. A loss could drop them back to 12th and in all sorts of trouble.

In some positive news, fullback Josh Dugan is fit and will take his place and Test and Origin prop David Shillington returns to the side. He pushes Scott Logan to the bench.

It will be a big day out for lock Josh Miller as he celebrates his 100th NRL game.

The Melbourne side has been buoyed by a gritty home win over Penrith last weekend. They are lapping up the chance to throw a spanner in the works when it comes to the top-eight’s make-up.

They have named a similar side, with just Bryan Norrie out. Jeff Lima and Kevin Proctor have been added to an extended bench.

With a proud head-to-head record against the Raiders to defend (they have won 77 per cent of all matches) the Storm will be in this clash up to their eyeballs.

Watch out Storm: Despite having lost Joel Thompson to a groin injury the Raiders are still heavily favouring their right-side attack and are still getting results.

They now have 30 tries scored on the right side compared to 15 on the left side and they will be confident given the Storm is slightly weaker defending this side. Opposition teams have scored 23 tries on the right side against the Storm, compared to just 15 on the left, and while this might be a small difference, it is still one to gain hope from.

The Raiders need a huge game from Kiwi representative Bronson Harrison who must find the balance between good and bad offloads.

Watch out Raiders: There is a distinct danger area for the Raiders – and that is when defending between their 20-metre line and halfway.

For some reason the Raiders have clocked off in this part of the field this season and it could be magnified against a Storm side that have scored the second most tries this season from this distance (17).

Having conceded 17 tries from this bracketed distance, the Raiders are the second worst side in the league in the statistic.

It is imperative the Raiders are switched on defensively in all areas or the Storm big guns will have a field day. It was against the Raiders in Round 10 when Greg Inglis awoke from his slumber with three tries.

Where it will be won: Ferocity and intensity – by the book, of course.

For the Raiders to be taken seriously by a Melbourne side that have dominated them for so long they need to play with some aggression and authority. There is no perception of worry or fear when it comes to playing the Raiders, most teams just don’t like the city of Canberra itself and the cold weather.

But when the side travels away they don’t usually bring with them any intimidation. It’s time they did.

With Origin players Shillington and Tom Learoyd-Lahrs starting in the front row the Green Machine needs to come out firing. Learoyd-Lahrs needs to play like he did in Origin III when he charged at the Maroons with reckless abandon, and Shillington needs to produce his Origin ‘player’s player’ form also.

If they can get physical with the Storm and show them they mean business, perhaps the Melbourne boys won’t be so cocky.

If it’s Melbourne who come out with intensity, despite having little to play for, perhaps the Raiders will fold like a cheap tent, something they have done in the past in Melbourne. The first 10 minutes of this match will be the defining period, with the team on top after 10 likely to be the team who can bring it home, providing they ‘maintain the rage’.

The history:
Played 26; Storm 20, Raiders 6. The Raiders have won one of the past two, having triumphed in 2009, but the Storm have secured 15 of the past 16 against the Raiders, including a spiteful 17-6 win in Round 10 in Canberra.

Also, Canberra have lost 15 of their past 16 games in Melbourne, although this is their first trip to AAMI Park.

Conclusion: You sort of want to see the Raiders fire up here and keep their finals hopes alive. But even though they have been better on the road, it’s hard to have confidence in them. They have forgotten how to win in Melbourne and have a mental brick wall against the Storm when matches are there for the taking.

They have a chance if they apply themselves… but the Storm are rightful favourites here.

Match officials: Referees – Ben Cummins & Phil Haines; Sideline Officials – Steve Chiddy & Adam Reid; Video Ref – Tim Mander.

Televised: Fox Sports – Live 2pm
Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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