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Whitehead confident Green Machine will tame Panthers enforcer Kikau

He might play on the other side of the field from Penrith wrecking ball Viliame Kikau, but Raiders star Elliott Whitehead said he wouldn't back down from a clash with the Panthers enforcer this weekend in Wagga.

Kikau scored one of the tries of the season last week when he steamrolled five South Sydney defenders in the 74th minute.

The 24-year-old's power is no secret in the NRL, but Whitehead is braced for some heavy collisions and is also backing close mate and fellow English international John Bateman to stand up to Kikau.

Whitehead said it didn’t matter if Kikau played on the opposite side of the field, saying the rest of the Panthers' pack will have plenty to prove.

"It doesn't bother me. He's a good player and I'm sure John (Bateman) will do a good job on him this weekend," Whitehead said.

"He's somebody we have to watch out for, but I'm not bothered if he were against me."

Now in his fourth season in Canberra, Whitehead said his start to 2019 has been slow by his lofty standards.

Kikau monsters his way over

The 29-year-old is averaging 70.23 run metres a game, down on his average from last season of 87.4.

Despite the loss to Manly last weekend, Whitehead said he feels he is rounding into some form finally, as he ran for 94 metres and made 33 tackles against the Sea Eagles.

"I've still got a little bit to go but I'm slowly starting to find my feet again," he said.

"I probably didn't start the best but I feel I'm getting back to my best. When you have a bad performance, you get a bit down on yourself and I probably didn't let go as quick as I should have but I feel like I'm finding a bit of form now."

Canberra have been dealt a blow for the game in Wagga, with Jordan Rapana not named by coach Ricky Stuart.

Rapana only played 19 minutes last weekend before succumbing to a rib injury suffered in a desperate try-saving tackle.

In a twist-of-fate, Rapana has been replaced by Bailey Simonsson who impressed with a try in his NRL debut in round one before making way for Rapana when he returned earlier than expected from shoulder surgery.

"Obviously losing Rapa was a big loss. He's another bloke when our middles get tired he comes in and does a lot work for us," Sam Williams said.

"We had to make a few changes but they (Manly) had their own issues so it's the way the game goes and there's 17 players in a team for a reason.

Nicoll-Klokstad scores just before full-time

"We spoke about it after Bailey's debut that he can do a job if called upon."

The game is a crucial one for both sides.

The Panthers will be desperate to earn their third win of the season and starting climbing the NRL ladder after a turbulent start to the season.

Canberra need a win to solidify their place in the top four, especially with games against the Roosters and Rabbitohs in rounds nine and 10.

The difference between first and last isn’t that much, which is what makes the NRL so unpredictable every week.

Get Caught Up: Round 7

"We've got a job to do this weekend," Williams said.

"They started to show some real quality signs in the back end of their game last week and they're a dangerous outfit with a lot to play for."

The Canberra halfback said the side's ill-discipline cost them last weekend, a mistake they can't make again when they face Panthers duo James Maloney and Nathan Cleary.

"Their ball movement at the back end of last week was really good and obviously they've got a great combination given they've won a series for their state," Williams said.

"It's just a case of us trying to nullify how much time they have with the ball, if we can dominate the middle it gives them less chance to move the ball."

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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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