Raiders v Dragons preview
Canberra Raiders v St George Illawarra Dragons
The word 'hoodoo' is epidemically utilised when it comes to fixtures between the Raiders and Dragons, but considering rugby league's finest sorcery was broken late last year when the Red V finally triumphed over the Green Machine in Canberra for the first time in 14 seasons, we'll have to change our tune and ask other questions.
Will the Dragons be able to cross for more than one try in a game and win for the first time this season?
Will Benji Marshall lift and get his troops running forward rather than sideways? Or will it be Mitch Cornish and co who reignites a new age hoodoo?
Jordan Rapana returns from a hamstring injury in place of Jack Wighton, who is set to miss 2-3 matches with a fractured eye socket. Jeremy Hawkins's suspension also sees Jarrad Kennedy move to the centres, Josh Papalii shift to second row and Dane Tilse return at prop for what will be his 200th NRL match.
The Dragons are unchanged bar George Rose and Rory O'Brien swapping between starting and the bench.
Watch out Raiders: The Dragons were given an ultimatum by coach McGregor last Monday following their terrible 28-4 loss at the hands of the Wests Tigers. It's now a matter of whether the Red V will fight for their right to be in the team or fly the coup and continue their struggling start to the year – the former reaction is what Ricky Stuart's men should be wary of.
Watch out Dragons: Sia Soliola is going gangbusters currently and well on his way to 'buy of the season' status. An NRL Fantasy must-have, Soliola has been giving his opposition teams hell with his tackle breaks and average 38.5 tackles and 149.7 metres per game confirming Stuart was correct in giving his former Rooster protégée an NRL return following his five-year English stint.
Key Match-Up: Blake Austin v Gareth Widdop – Both these players will be looking to improve on their first two games of the Telstra Premiership. Neither has chalked up a line break assist or try assist in the opening two weeks. Widdop isn't touching the ball as much as halfback Marshall, but he's had enough of it to have more of an impact. As for Austin, his flashes of brilliance aren't enough to offset his minimal touches of the ball. Averaging 33 handles per game, Austin should be concentrating on working within Stuart's structure rather than rely on second-phase play in the post-Terry Campese era.
The History: Played 24; Raiders 16, Dragons 7, Drawn 1. It is all about the hoodoo and the fact in finally came to a halt last season when the Dragons finally won in the nation's capital. The 34-16 win was the Dragons first win in Canberra since 2000 and their first victory against the Green Machine in seven years. Has momentum finally shifted?
What are the Odds: Sportsbet punters don't want a bar of the Dragons at the moment, with three times the money going on the Raiders in comparison to McGregor's struggling outfit. Canberra are $1.62 (in from $1.86) with St George Illawarra drifting from $1.94 to $2.30. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match Officials: Referee: Jared Maxwell. Assistant Referee: Gavin Morris. Touch Judges: Rick MacFarlane and Belinda Sleeman. Video Referees: Steve Chiddy and Ben Galea.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live (5:30pm)
The Way We See It: The Dragons haven't shown much in their first two games and need a big improvement. So in light of this, expect the Raiders to kick their season off with two wins from three games. Raiders by 8.
As part of PlayNRL Round, the Raiders will be holding the following events at GIO Stadium:
• Mini-Footy between four junior clubs pre-game of NRL. Teams involved will also line the tunnel for the NRL match.
• All Junior clubs offered the opportunity to set up registration stalls at GIO Stadium
• Junior Club Relay at halftime of the NRL match, where all local rugby league clubs and touch football ACT participate. Each club has one representative from under 7s to 16s involved.
• Acknowledgement of local rugby league volunteers.
• Hart Sport obstacle course in the Western Forecourt, run by NRL Development staff, encouraging participation.
Think you've got what it takes to be the next Golden Boot winner?
The NRL's Golden Boot virtual kicking game will be live on location at GIO Stadium to help fans get a kick out of PlayNRL Round.
PlayNRL Round Ambassador, Beau Ryan will commentate his way through your kicking performance and be sure to give you all the encouragement you need for you chance to share in the major prize of two Platinum 2015 Telstra Premiership Grand Final tickets or collect a minor prize of a Mini Soft Footy!
So grab your mates or family members, come down and register to play – it's quick, easy and fun and will give you the chance to take home bragging rights as the Golden Boot winner, not to mention, a chance to WIN some great prizes!
Round 3 of the Telstra Premiership is PlayNRL Round where the game will celebrate all that’s great about grassroots rugby league.
Rugby league is all about having fun, making friends and staying healthy. The NRL is using this round to help promote Junior Rugby League and thank you, our future stars and fans and heroes who help make it all possible.
Join the conversation at #PlayNRL, get your tickets at nrl.com/tickets and get to a game. Talk to your local junior club about signing up as a player or volunteer and join the thousands of people who make rugby league great.