Raiders v Storm preview
Canberra Raiders v Melbourne Storm
For the fourth time in six weeks Melbourne will head back on the road but this time they make the trip with just two of the 'Big Three' on board.
The nation's capital has provided a happy hunting ground for the Storm, who have come away winners from 11 of their past 13 visits. While on paper the men in purple appear to hold clear favouritism a surprise could certainly be on the cards.
In the corresponding fixture last year a last-gasp Paul Vaughn try snatched victory for the Raiders and the neutral will be hoping for yet another thrilling finish as both teams chase back-to-back wins for the first time in 2015.
Canberra broke a three-game losing streak last week courtesy of four first-half tries as they controlled Manly for much of their 29-16 win.
Melbourne managed to keep the Warriors at arm's length in their Easter Monday win over the Warriors but it was the fallout since that has proven costly.
Billy Slater has been ruled out for the next four weeks with a shoulder injury, paving the way for possible fullback prodigy Cameron Munster to play his first game of 2015. Another option could be moving fellow young gun Kurt Mann to the backfield where he played majority of his development footy despite the 22-year-old making his name in first grade as a centre.
The Raiders have named Jeremy Hawkins on the wing for his first game of the year as Jordan Rapana serves a one-match ban for a high tackle on Sea Eagle Jamie Buhrer.
Watch out Raiders: Frightening Fonua. Mahe Fonua has terrorised Canberra in the past, finding his way onto the score sheet at least once in all four games he has played against them – including seven tries in the past three games. Fonua played for the first time this season last week against the Warriors and showed he hadn't lost his scoring touch with a try, an assist and five tackle breaks. With much of the Raiders' pre-game planning expected to be around how to stop in-form winger Marika Koroibete, Fonua could yet again slip under Ricky Stuart's guard.
Watch out Storm: That new halves feeling. A week ago if we made the Raiders' halves an area to watch for the Storm you'd probably have a case to question our sanity. However the match-winning performances of Sam Williams and Blake Austin against Manly would have raised some purple eyebrows. The kicking game of Williams was spot-on with a field goal and grubber kick that led to a crucial Jarrod Croker try. Austin was everywhere, putting in two try-saving tackles on Cheyse Blair while doing damage at the other end with a try and an assist himself. Melbourne should be doing some midweek homework on these two.
Key Match-Up: Sisa Waqa v Marika Koroibete. Get your popcorn ready, with these two on the same field you can expect one hell of a show. The Fijian internationals combined for 14 tries in 11 games last season before Waqa's move to the Green Machine on a two-year deal. Waqa scored 41 tries in 67 Storm games and was the club's leading try scorer in 2014. However Melbourne has a new favourite Fijian in Koroibete who has become the talk of the rugby league world after a blistering start to life in Melbourne that has seen him score 10 tries in 15 games. These two are human highlight reels so sit back and enjoy the show.
The History: Played 35; Raiders 25, Storm 10. Canberra has won three of the past five meetings between the two teams but it is Melbourne who hold an imposing record in the nation's capital, having left with the points from 11 of the past 13 trips.
What Are The Odds: Raiders $2.65 v Storm $1.48. Sportsbet reports a bit of a rally for the Raiders at home, with Canberra 1-12 the most popular option. Marika Koroibete is the clear top pick in the first try scorer market. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match Officials: Referee: Matt Cecchin. Assistant referee: Gavin Morris. Touch judges: David Ryan & Phil Henderson. Video referees: Steve Chiddy & Luke Phillops.
Televised: Fox Sports, Live, 2pm.
The Way We See It: Billy Slater is a big loss and the Raiders were certainly impressive last week but the attacking weapons of the visitors should be too much for the Green Machine to handle. Storm by eight points.