Round 17 in the NRL kicks off on Thursday night as Manly host Canberra from 7.50pm. As always, Greg Davis has a full preview and betting tips for the round opening clash below.
4 Pines Park, Thursday July 8th, 7.50pm (AEST)
MANLY: 1. Reuben Garrick, 2. Jason Saab, 3. Brad Parker, 4. Morgan Harper, 5. Moses Suli, 6. Kieran Foran, 7. Dylan Walker, 8. Taniela Paseka, 9. Lachlan Croker, 10. Martin Taupau, 11. Haumole Olakau’atu, 12. Karl Lawton, 13. Sean Keppie. Interchange: 14. Cade Cust, 15. Ben Trbojevic, 16. Kurt De Luis, 17. Toaofoa Sipley. Reserves: 18. Jack Gosiewski, 19. Tevita Funa, 20. Jorge Taufua, 21. Tolutau Koula.
CANBERRA: 1. Xavier Savage, 2. Semi Valemei, 3. Jarrod Croker, 4. Sebastian Kris, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Matt Frawley, 7. Sam Williams, 8. Emre Guler, 9. Josh Hodgson, 10. Dunamis Lui, 11. Corey Harawira-Naera, 12. Hudson Young, 13. Ryan Sutton. Interchange:14. Tom Starling, 15. Ryan James, 16. Iosia Soliola, 17. Joseph Tapine. Reserves: 18. Matthew Timoko, 19. Trey Mooney, 20. Brad Schneider, 21. Harry Rushton
AS a player and coach, Ricky Stuart loved State of Origin.
In 14 games as Blues halfback and a further nine as NSW boss, Stuart won five series and lost three. He got Origin football and knew what it took to be successful.
And nobody will be happier about the upcoming third match of the 2021 interstate series than Ricky. Nobody.
Because Origin 3 on July 14 means that Manly will be without the services of superstars Tom Trbojevic and Daly Cherry-Evans when the Sea Eagles host Stuart’s Canberra Raiders this Thursday night.
Trbojevic and Cherry-Evans were the chief destroyers for Manly in the 66-0 romp over Canterbury last round – the club’s biggest-ever win.
It was the third match in a row that the Sea Eagles had passed 50 points and helped the red-hot Manly surge into fifth place on the ladder on the back of nine wins from their last 11 outings.
It is a world away from their incredibly sluggish start when Manly lost their first four games with Trbojevic sidelined with his troublesome hamstring. The return of ‘Tommy Turbo’ has sparked the Sea Eagles like no player has revitalised a team in recent memory.
With their no.1 playmaker Cherry-Evans and try-scoring/try-assisting machine Trbojevic both unavailable due to Origin commitments, Manly’s attack will be decidedly less dangerous.
And that can only be good news for Ricky and the Raiders (which would be a good name for a rock band).
Canberra have had a horror 2021 campaign with virtually the same roster that made the 2019 grand final and the 2020 preliminary final being rendered useless.
All is not well inside the Raiders camp. The talent is there but the will to win has left the nation’s capital.
Stuart labelled the 44-6 loss to Gold Coast last Saturday as “unacceptable” and said he was “embarrassed” by the humbling defeat that took place in front of Canberra’s home fans.
It wasn’t like they lost to Melbourne or Penrith either. This was the Titans. The side that can have a defensive line flimsier than a wet paper bag and conceded 48 points in 40 minutes to Manly just a few weeks ago.
The Raiders will be without Origin players Jack Wighton and Josh Papalii while they also lost Bailey Simonsson and Elliott Whitehead to injury.
But surely there will be some sort of response to the insipid display against the Gold Coast. Canberra narrowly lost to the Dragons two weeks ago after putting Brisbane to the sword. They’ve got it in them but internal dramas can destroy even the most star-studded squads.
Manly will be high on confidence and will take irresistible momentum into the clash but without their top-level firepower, may have to work a little harder to put the Raiders away.
Dylan Walker takes over the no.7 jumper from Cherry-Evans while Reuben Garrick shuffles from the wing to fullback to cover Trbojevic.
It should be enough to get the chocolates.
But it’s likely to be more gritty than pretty for the Eagles who will stay in touch with the top four.
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