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The fresh country air of Wagga Wagga might be just the trick to turn around the Panthers form and give them the win they've been craving for the past three weeks.

Then again the city is only 160km from Canberra so it's virtually a home game for the Raiders.

Since it's an unfamiliar ground for both teams, the key to a win will come down to what it does at any stadium - using a good kicking game and solid possession to create points.

And on that score Penrith five-eighth James Maloney is in the top-10 for the number of kicks in play - Jack Wighton is just inside the top-20 - but Canberra are the kings of possession leading the NRL with the time they have the ball in hand. 

The Rundown

Team news

Raiders: Joseph Leilua is out, replaced in the centres by Michael Oldfield. No other late changes for the Green Machine. Emre Guler was the last player cut before kick-off, while Aidan Sezer and Murchie were trimmed from the original 21-man squad on Friday. The Raiders (5-2) are aiming to bounce back from last week's road loss to Manly.

Panthers: The Panthers are 1-17 as named on Tuesday. Coach Ivan Cleary has retained exactly the same 17-man team that wasn't far off beating the Rabbitohs last week. Jerome Luai and Kaide Ellis were omitted an hour before kick-off, while Dylan Edwards and Tyrell Fuimaono dropped off the reserves list on Friday. The Panthers have won two of seven games and can virtually forget about a top-four finish if they lose on Saturday.

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Raiders is number 1 Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad
    Fullback for Panthers is number 1 Caleb Aekins
  • Winger for Raiders is number 2 Nick Cotric
    Winger for Panthers is number 2 Josh Mansour
  • Centre for Raiders is number 3 Jarrod Croker
    Centre for Panthers is number 3 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
  • Centre for Raiders is number 19 Michael Oldfield
    Centre for Panthers is number 4 Waqa Blake
  • Winger for Raiders is number 5 Bailey Simonsson
    Winger for Panthers is number 5 Malakai Watene-Zelezniak
  • Five-Eighth for Raiders is number 6 Jack Wighton
    Five-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 James Maloney
  • Halfback for Raiders is number 7 Sam Williams
    Halfback for Panthers is number 7 Nathan Cleary

Forwards

  • Prop for Raiders is number 8 Josh Papalii
    Prop for Panthers is number 8 James Tamou
  • Hooker for Raiders is number 9 Josh Hodgson
    Hooker for Panthers is number 9 Wayde Egan
  • Prop for Raiders is number 10 Dunamis Lui
    Prop for Panthers is number 10 Tim Grant
  • 2nd Row for Raiders is number 11 John Bateman
    2nd Row for Panthers is number 11 Viliame Kikau
  • 2nd Row for Raiders is number 12 Elliott Whitehead
    2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Isaah Yeo
  • Lock for Raiders is number 13 Ryan Sutton
    Lock for Panthers is number 13 James Fisher-Harris

Interchange

  • Interchange for Raiders is number 14 Siliva Havili
    Interchange for Panthers is number 14 Sione Katoa
  • Interchange for Raiders is number 15 Hudson Young
    Interchange for Panthers is number 15 Liam Martin
  • Interchange for Raiders is number 16 Iosia Soliola
    Interchange for Panthers is number 16 Moses Leota
  • Interchange for Raiders is number 17 Corey Horsburgh
    Interchange for Panthers is number 17 Reagan Campbell-Gillard

Match Officials

  • Referee: Grant Atkins
  • Referee: Dave Munro
  • Touch Judge: Drew Oultram
  • Senior Review Official: Jared Maxwell

Last updated:

Key match-up

Apart from the one mentioned above - the two No.6s - both in their kicking games and how they link with the outside backs, the other highlight that might get more bums on seats is Viliame Kikau, on the left-edge, up against John Bateman on the Raiders' right.

For the Raiders to win

Giving the ball early to Joey Leilua, John Bateman, or Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad so they have a little space. These three have racked up a collective 104 tackle-breaks, while the Raiders the only club to have three players in the NRL top-10.

For the Panthers to win

The forward pack continues the work rate standard they set against South Sydney last week. Back rowers James Fisher-Harris (16 runs, 145 metres) and Kikau (15 runs, 169 metres) were outstanding but were still topped by prop James Tamou. Not only did he make 20 runs for 245 metres, he made the most post-contact metres (89) of anyone on the field.

Brett Kimmorley says

That was the best Penrith have played in 2019. Viliame Kikau is such a force on the left edge. If they repeat that they’ll have more wins that losses over the rest of the season. They are good signs. The Raiders will be kicking themselves over their loss last week against a side with no Tom Trbojevic and DCE missing for a large part of the second half. Ricky won’t be too happy with that loss and his team will want to respond. Raiders by 8

Stat Attack

The Raiders continue to keep their handling errors to a minimum. They are averaging only nine per game, while the Panthers are well into double digits and also high up the ladder for penalties conceded. Ricky Stuart's men are second in the NRL for the least number of ineffective tackles. But the Panthers are in the top-five for support play, so will be testing that Raiders defence.

And another thing ... 

Centre Joey Leilua will play his 200th NRL game for Canberra. They are his third club (after Roosters and Knights) but he's been there the longest (five years) and scored the most tries for them. He's had four in seven games in 2019.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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