An early shot for consecutive wins awaits Canberra in round two.
The Canberra Raiders will face a side that has scored over one-hundred and fifty points against them in the past three outings, in the form of the New Zealand Warriors at GIO Stadium on Sunday night.
Matches against the team from across the Tasman have not fared well in recent times for the Green Machine; the last trio of games has seen the Raiders concede a half-century of points each time—the Warriors wreaking havoc seemingly at will.
But round-one form would suggest this match will not follow the recent pattern. The Raiders are first-start victors, after a dogged win against the Sharks—while the Warriors threw away a lead and capitulated against the Knights.
Ricky Stuart has named the same squad that got the job done against Cronulla, and with so much early competition for spots, the players should not need any extra motivation to perform well again.
Blake Austin and Mitch Cornish will be all the better for their first hit-out as the halves combination, while Jack Wighton would have gained plenty of experience in his eventful game at fullback last week. The new senior players are also working some magic on the younger heads already.
And if they needed any more reason to turn up for this game, then there’s the prospect of achieving back-to-back wins so early in the competition. Last year it took the Raiders until round 25 before they were able to get that consistency. Crossing that task off the list straight up will be yet another confidence boost for the whole team.
[quote]...with so much early competition for spots, the players should not need any extra motivation to perform well again.[/quote]
Then there are the Warriors; the uncertain and unpredictable Warriors. It is the kind of side that can turn up and blow the other team off the field—as Canberra knows all too well recently—or forget even the basic fundamentals of how to play.
In short, New Zealand is a side that cannot be taken lightly. Whatever kind of side turns up on the day, they still have players like Shaun Johnson, Manu Vatuvei, Thomas Leuluai, and now the experience of former Storm player Ryan Hoffman.
On paper, the Warriors have been given favouritism. On form—despite only one round of football being played—the preference has to go to Canberra. But only just.
If the Raiders can build upon what they displayed against the Sharks, in conjunction with the boost of playing their first home game, they should be able to get the job done. But beware those dangerous and unpredictable Warriors.
Can Canberra achieve something they struggled to do for most of last year—consecutive wins?