NRL: Roosters well primed to spike Raiders' strategies

Canberra recognise Jared Waerea-Hargreaves as a danger man. Photo / Getty Images
Canberra recognise Jared Waerea-Hargreaves as a danger man. Photo / Getty Images

The Canberra Raiders are hoping home ground advantage and the X-factor of a little known youngster will turn their NRL season fortunes around today against the Sydney Roosters.

The Warriors will also be watching with interest - as they take on the Raiders in their next NRL outing, a bottom-of-the-table clash, this week. First, however, the Raiders meet Sonny Bill Williams' Roosters - and the last time they met at Canberra Stadium was towards the end of the Raiders' 2012 hot streak in round 24, with a 65th minute Reece Robinson try sealing a 24-20 win for the home side.

However, a lot has changed since then. The Raiders are at the bottom of the NRL ladder and the Roosters have kept a clean score sheet two weeks running. They also now boast the skill set of an in-form Williams.

"He's got better and better as weeks have gone on and we've identified him and [Jared Waerea-Hargreaves] as their key offloaders," Raiders captain David Shillington said. "So he's someone we have to defend against strongly and wrap up the ball."

Canberra know the Roosters aren't a one-man band and will also have to keep an eye out on a star-studded backline that includes Shaun Kenny-Dowall, James Maloney, Mitchell Pearce, Anthony Minichiello and Michael Jennings.

The Raiders are without three of their best backs with Terry Campese and Blake Ferguson injured and fullback Josh Dugan sacked.

Despite coming off a 50-0 win against Parramatta last week, Roosters back-rower Mitchell Aubusson said they'll be looking to improve their tackling against the Raiders.

Meanwhile, teenage star Anthony Milford has been named on a five-man Raiders bench, as potential cover for injured winger Sandor Earl. Milford has impressed so much after scoring four tries in his past two matches for the Raiders under-20 team that Furner is considering moving the in-form Robinson to the wing to play Milford at fullback, or as a utility.

Canberra centre Jarrod Croker, 22, will be celebrating his 100th match in the NRL as the second youngest player in the club's history to reach that milestone.

However, if Canberra's efforts with youngsters do not bear fruit today, they could try taking a leaf from St George Illawarra's book. First-year Dragons captain Ben Creagh had a novel approach to turning around St George's early season stumbles - a media ban, but not the type you'd think.

As the Dragons withstood a wave of heavy criticism after going winless from their opening three games, Creagh helped shield the team's youngsters by telling them to get their heads out of the papers.

With coach Steve Price under increasing pressure to earn a new contract, the Dragons produced a spirited upset of local rivals Cronulla to open their account last weekend. According to Creagh, it came down to shutting out the bad vibes.

The Dragons, 12th going into today's match, face an even tougher test at home when they do battle with former coach Wayne Bennett and his in-form Newcastle Knights. Based around the NRL's fourth-stingiest defence, Bennett has crafted the Knights into a Dragons-clone this year.

Creagh was quick to heap praise on two former team-mates who have added steel to the Newcastle pack.

"They're a quality forward pack. The guys they've bought, [former Dragons] Jeremy Smith, Beau Scott have been playing well."

- AAP

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