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3 hours ago | Tim Costello
Vote One - Rugby League
The two-party contest between Labor and Liberal will come to a head on Saturday evening in the 2019 Australian Federal Election, however just down the road the showdown between the Canberra Raiders and the South Sydney Rabbitohs looms as a battleground for two teams vying to become rugby league premiers.
Coming within a well-timed pass of going to golden point against the defending premiers last Sunday, after trailing by 24 points early in the second half, the Raiders will be hoping third times a charm having gone down to the Roosters (30-24) and Storm (22-10) earlier this season in a telling gauge of their status among the competition front-runners.
Returning to GIO Stadium with a surprisingly strong record of five wins from seven matches against the Rabbitohs during Ricky Stuart's tenure, the Raiders will be hoping the rare occurrence of a top four clash in the nation's capital attracts a regular season crowd over 20,000 for the first time since 2010.
Already without Joseph Leilua for an extended period, the other member of the lethal ‘Leipana' partnership - Jordan Rapana - has been ruled out for the next few weeks due to a knee injury. As a result, Michael Oldfield and Nick Cotric switch between centre and wing, Bailey Simonsson comes into the starting side, while 20-year-old centre, Sebastian Kris, will make his NRL debut off the bench.
Producing a mixed performance filled with periods of dominance and complacency against the Cowboys, the South Sydney Rabbitohs will have their sights set on claiming an outright lead of the competition on Saturday evening.
Establishing healthy leads at the beginning of both halves before allowing the Cowboys to post late points in last Sunday's 32-16 win in Brisbane, coach Wayne Bennett will be hoping for greater consistency from his team, as the Rabbitohs chase an elusive win in the ACT after managing five wins from 11 appearances in Canberra since life member and Labor MP, Anthony Albanese, was elected to Parliament in 1996.
Losing Alex Johnston for a month with a knee injury, Corey Allan moves to his preferred position of fullback, allowing Mawene Hiroti to make his first appearance of 2019, while interchange forward Marc Nicholls will make his 50th appearance in the NRL after previous stints with Canberra and Melbourne
Last meeting: Round 24 2018 - Raiders 24 Rabbitohs 12
Who to watch: Having spent the 2010s trying to cement a regular position in first grade, well travelled outside back Michael Oldfield will be hoping to use Joseph Leilua's misfortune for his own gain. With the Samoan powerhouse unlikely to play again this season due to a neck issue, the 28-year-old two-time Tongan representative looms as a long-term option in the Raiders backline after scoring back-to-back tries over the past fortnight. Facing off against one of his five former clubs, having spent a season with the Rabbitohs in 2016, expect Oldfield to draw upon his years of waiting in the wings to showcase his wares as more than just a depth player.
Representing the Prime Minister's XIII before making his NRL debut last October, Corey Allan will have his first shot at playing in his preferred position on Saturday evening. Signed from Brisbane prior to Wayne Bennett joining the club over the off-season, the 21-year-old former Junior Kangaroos and Queensland Under-20s representative has provided solid service on the wing this season, while harbouring a desire to make his name as a fullback. Afforded the opportunity to fill in for Alex Johnston in the short-term, look for Allan to leave his coach with a tough decision as to which player wears the number one jersey in pursuit of the club's 22nd premiership.
The favourite: They may not be as short-priced favourites as Labor to win on Saturday night, however the Rabbitohs are well preferred to claim an outright victory at GIO Stadium.
My tip: With the Rabbitohs boasting a house of representative players, the Raiders will be banking on home ground preferences to secure victory. However, with Wayne Bennett holding the most terms of any senator within the coaching ranks, expect his experience to get the visitors elected at the end of 80 minutes. Rabbitohs by 7.
A Message from League Unlimited: For everyone eligible to vote in the Australian Federal Election this Saturday, please exercise your democratic right to vote wisely. The right to vote has not always been held by everyone in Australia; please cast your ballot papers in good faith.
1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Bailey Simonsson 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Nick Cotric 5. Michael Oldfield 6. Jack Wighton 7. Sam Williams 8. Josh Papalii 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Dunamis Lui 11. Hudson Young 12. Elliot Whitehead 13. Ryan Sutton 14. Siliva Havili 15. Sebastian Kris 16. Iosia Soliola 17. Corey Horsburgh
1. Corey Allen 2. Mawene Hiroti 16. Ethan Lowe 4. Dane Gagai 5. Campbell Graham 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 14. Tevita Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Thomas Burgess 11. John Sutton 12. Sam Burgess 13. Cameron Murray 8. George Burgess 15. Mark Nicholls 17. Liam Knight 20. Dean Britt
Referees: Ben Cummins, Chris Butler; Sideline Officials: Nick Morel, Liam Nicholls; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy, Beau Scott;