Schick Hydro Preview: Canberra Raiders v Canterbury Bulldogs
The Raiders and Bulldogs begin the unpredictable State of Origin period with a toss of the coin contest in the nation's capital on Sunday.
The Green Machine proved too good for the Warriors at Yarrow Stadium last weekend and another win on Sunday would cement their place in the top eight.
Victory in Round 12 would give the Bulldogs three straight wins for the first time in 2016 and could put them level on points with the Cowboys and Broncos if results go their way.
Both teams have been affected by the interstate representative fixture which adds even more intrigue to this weekend's clash.
Workhorses Sia Soliola and Shaun Fensom will return in the back row for the Raiders with Josh Papalii named for Queensland. NRL Fantasy cash cow Luke Bateman shifts back to a five-man bench.
David Klemmer and Josh Jackson's Origin selection means Tim Browne and Raymond Faitala-Mariner will start for the Bulldogs. Josh Morris has been named too despite being included in NSW's 19-man squad. Danny Fualalo and Adam Elliott come on to the bench.
Watch out Raiders: Having missed out on the utility role for the Blues, Josh Reynolds will be keen to send NSW coach Laurie Daley a timely reminder of what he can deliver. Reynolds is in scintillating form having scored a try in each of the last two games, including a ripping solo try against the Roosters last week. The Bulldogs five-eighth played a starring role in last year's thriller between these two teams with a double and the match-winning field goal, and also scored against the Green Machine when the sides met in Round 5 this year.
Watch out Bulldogs: Despite their impressive recent attacking record, the blue and whites are surprisingly ranked 15th in terms of tackle breaks. The Bulldogs have broken just 236 tackles in 2016 compared to the Raiders who are second in the NRL with 354. Their task won't be made any easier in the nation's capital given the Raiders have only missed 248 tackles this season; only the Storm have been better in this area.
Key match-up: Joseph Leilua v Josh Morris. The game's best attacking centre comes face-to-face with the competition's best defensive centre in what should be a cracking contest on the edge. The Raiders attacking weapon has been unstoppable at times this year. Leilua leads the league with 30 offloads, has broken 53 tackles and has developed a lethal combination with winger Jordan Rapana on the right. Morris, meanwhile, was described by his captain and coach as the best defensive centre in the NRL after shutting down Blake Ferguson on the weekend. He will be out to prove a point after missing out on being picked in the final 17 for the Blues.
The history: Played 63; Raiders 27, Bulldogs 36. Canterbury has won six of the past 10 meetings, including three straight in Canberra. Last year's meeting will go down as one of the craziest games of rugby league ever played with the Bulldogs racing out to a 26-0 after 18 minutes before the hosts rallied to level the scores at 34-all in the 75th minute. An 80th minute field goal to Josh Reynolds and a try after the siren to Moses Mbye made it 41-34 to the Bulldogs in a game people aren't likely to forget any time soon. The Raiders were victorious when the sides met in Round 5 at Belmore Oval earlier this year.
What are the odds: Canberra have been big firmers since Sportsbet put up their markets on this game. The Raiders are holding nearly four times as much money in the head-to-head market as there is on the Bulldogs. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match officials: Referee: Ashley Klein. Assistant referee: Adam Gee. Sideline officials: Brett Suttor and Belinda Sleeman.
Televised: Channel 9 – Live coverage from 3:30pm; Fox Sports 1 - Live coverage from 3:30pm.
The way we see it: If last season's clash is anything to go by then this will be the must-watch match of 2016. Both clubs are coming off comfortable wins and will be keen to maintain that momentum as they try to navigate through the Origin period unscathed. Expect plenty of points, expect plenty of twists and turns, and expect a Bulldogs win by 8 points.