Team changes: Raiders facing worst losing streak
Captain Alan Tongue returns to Canberra's starting line-up as hooker for its must-win round nine match against the Sea Eagles as the Raiders fight to keep their season alive and avoid equalling their worst ever losing streak.
The Raiders, sitting on the bottom of the ladder after seven straight losses following their solo opening round victory, face the prospect of equalling the club's longest losing streak of eight games (round 21, 1985 to round three, 1986) when they take on the fifth-placed Sea Eagles (5-3) at Brookvale Oval on Monday.
And with one-third of the season now behind them, they must win at least nine of their remaining 16 games to have a chance of scraping into the eight for the Telstra Premiership Finals Series.
The expected return from injury of star five-eighth Terry Campese in round 13 against the Cowboys may be too late to save the Raiders from slipping out of finals contention by the season's halfway mark.
Both the Raiders and Sea Eagles will have players backing up on Monday from Friday's representative matches, and Canberra's run through the following eight disrupted rounds leading up to the final State of Origin match on July 6 is challenging to say the least.
Their next four games after playing the Sea Eagles are against other teams currently ranked in the top six - the Storm and Cowboys (with all Origin players available) and Bulldogs and Cowboys (minus any Origin reps).
Only four games will be played this weekend because of the ANZAC Test between Australia and New Zealand at the Gold Coast on Friday and the City-Country clash in Albury.
Most coaches with multiple representative players admit that they are uncertain if the team they named on Tuesday will be the team that lines up on the weekend, depending how their players pull up from the Friday night games.
New Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin is the exception, having named three rookies in an 18-man squad to play Melbourne at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night after deciding against backing up their five Australian Test players - Darren Lockyer, Sam Thaiday, Justin Hodges, Ben Hannant and Jharal Yow Yeh. The Storm have named an unchanged line-up that includes seven players involved with the ANZAC Test or City-Country match.
Likewise the Warriors have named their five Kiwi reps - Lance Hohaia, Lewis Brown, Simon Mannering, Sam Rapira and Ben Matulino - in an unchanged line-up to take on the Titans at Skilled Park, Robina. The Gold Coast will be without star hooker Nathan Friend, who has been ruled out indefinitely due to minor shoulder surgery, while Mark Minichiello and Greg Bird will need to back up from City and Australia duty respectively.
On Sunday, Dragons coach Wayne Bennett has named the 10 rep players he has backing up from Friday night for their clash with the Cowboys at WIN Jubilee Oval, while North Queensland have also named their Test players Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott but will take extra reinforcements on their away trip in case of injury.
In the final match of the split round on Monday, Brett White will get his first chance to start for the Raiders against the Sea Eagles at Brookvale Oval. Country representatives Josh Dugan, Joel Thompson and Tom Learoyd-Lahrs have been named for the Raiders and will back up providing they get through Friday night’s match in Albury unscathed.
The Sea Eagles welcome the return of Brett Stewart to fullback, while David Williams has been named on an extended bench. Country's Glenn Stewart, City's Will Hopoate and New Zealand's Kieran Foran will all be backing up from Friday night.