Raiders forward Sia Soliola.

Raiders' Soliola a lock for Round 1

Raiders forward Sia Soliola says he's likely to play the majority of 2017 in the No.13 jersey, with the former Rooster on track for Round 1 despite rehabbing a knee injury through pre-season.

Given coach Ricky Stuart's preference for starting Soliola and the form of Luke Bateman, it remains to be seen what role Shaun Fensom will play this season, with the fan favourite having been forced out of Canberra's NRL squad towards the back end of 2016.

Although happy to fit in where required Soliola confirmed he's likely to feature at lock, having played both in the middle and on an edge in his two years in the nation's capital to date.

"Probably the same as well, more lock than anything else. I'll just fit in wherever need be," Soliola told media at Raiders HQ when asked about his role this season.

"The only reason I couldn't go to the Nines was rehab-wise, it was a little bit behind. But moving forward to the trials it'll be right to go."

Led by veteran prop Jeff Lima and halves Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer, Canberra sent an otherwise inexperienced squad to the Auckland Nines in a bid to give some of their crop of rising stars a taste of first grade. 

Given the make-up of their side the young stars played admirably, with a loss to eventual champions the Roosters in their final pool match ending their campaign.

With spots in the NRL side expected to be hard to come by given the Raiders' stellar 2016 season, the tournament was the perfect opportunity for some of the Green Machine's brightest young prospects to continue their development, according to Soliola.

"There was a bit of a buzz for them, they got to get their hands on the ball… and get the feel of the game. Especially for the younger fellas as well, [like] Paul Roache and Nick Cotric," Soliola said.

"That created excitement for them, being in a different arena, a different crowd, playing at a place you'd hope to see them in the future.

"It creates a really good buzz. For me being one of the older guys it's nice to see the new guys come through. It creates that really good excitement not just for us but around the town as well."

 


Canberra next turn their attention to their one and only trial, a return to Seiffert Oval to face Newcastle on Saturday night.

Junior Paulo will be available for selection for that trial, however the blockbusting front-rower won't take to the field in Round 1, suspended for the Raiders' first-up clash with the Cowboys at 1300SMILES Stadium.

While Paulo's presence will be missed Soliola was confident his side had the depth to cover his absence, hinting that Stuart might turn to experience over youth when selecting the former Eel's replacement.

"[We'll miss] his big tough runs and for someone his size he gets around the pitch and can play some big minutes. 

"We're going to lose a bit of experience, [but] we've got some guys there that are willing to come in. It creates a good opportunity for someone to step in.

"You've got Jeff [Lima], the workhorse warrior, and a few others that 'Sticky' (Stuart) will have a look at." 

This video first featured on raiders.com.au