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3 hours ago | Tim Costello
Battle-hardened Raiders host Warriors in Nation's capital.
In a testing month of football heading into September,the Raiders have notched comeback victories over the Storm and Sharks as well as going down to the high flying Roosters and Sea Eagles - by just four points on both occasions.
Coach Ricky Stuart has obviously seen enough in them performances, as well as having a top four birth basically assured to give four of his Raiders a rest heading into the club's first finals campaign since they went within an Edrick Lee dropped ball of making the 2016 decider.
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Jordan Rapana, Iosia Soliola and John Bateman will all sit the game against the Warriors out. Replacing them are Bailey Simonsson (fullback), Michael Oldfield and Sebastian Kris (both wing), Dunamis Lui (prop) and Hudson Young (second-row). Emre Guler and JJ Collins also come in as fresh faces in the 17 via the bench.
The Warriors meanwhile come into this fixture with nothing more than pride at stake after winning just one of their last six matches to fall dramatically out of the race for finals football.
Coach Stephen Kearney has lost Peta Hiku, Chanel Harris-Tavita and Patrick Herbert to injury. A rookie and a veteran will form a new-look centre pairing for the match with Adam Pompey and Blake Ayshford the new names in the Warriors three-quarter line. Bunfy Afoa and Adam Keighran will also come onto Kearney's bench.
Last meeting: Round 20 2019 - Warriors 12 Raiders 46
Who to watch: After enjoying arguably his most consistent year to date, Raiders bookend Josh Papalii is prepping himself to conquer the final frontier in his playing career. With a World Cup victory in 2013 and four series triumphs for the Maroons, a Premiership title with the green machine has so far eluded him, but this upcoming finals series could serve as his best chance yet. Blessed with brilliant footwork for a big man, the dynamic middle forward oozes strength and has the ability to pop an offload at a crucial time. With the Raiders resting players this Saturday, Papalii will be taking it upon himself to ensure his team still lay a dominant platform in this contest.
After 82 games for the New Zealand Warriors, hooker Isaac Luke will undoubtedly be pushing himself for one last big performance for the club based in his native country. Told his services won't be required for the 2020 season, the veteran of 43 Test caps is still looking for an opportunity at another NRL club next year and that fact will also be in the back of his mind as he aims to impress any potential suitors. At his best, Luke can be absolutely dynamic out of acting half. Don't be surprised to see him running more than he has in recent times as he laces his boots as a Warrior for the final time.
The favourite: The Raiders go into this one hot favourites to get the job done on their home patch.
My tip: Despite the resting of four of their stars, the Green Machine look too strong against a Warriors side who's offered little in recent times. Don't expect complacency to be a factor either with Stuart sure to keep his troops on task leading into what looms as their most promising Premiership tilt in recent times. Raiders by 22.
1. Bailey Simonsson 2. Michael Oldfield 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Nick Cotric 5. Sebastian Kris 6. Jack Wighton 7. Aidan Sezer 8. Josh Papalii 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Dunamis Lui 11. Hudson Young 12. Elliott Whitehead 16. Corey Horsburgh 13. Ryan Sutton 14. Siliva Havili 15. Emre Guler 17. JJ Collins
1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 3. Adam Pompey 20. Taane Milne 4. Blake Ayshford 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Kodi Nikorima 7. Blake Green 8. Agnatius Paasi 9. Issac Luke 10. Leeson Ah Mau 11. Adam Blair 12. Isaiah Papalii 13. Jazz Tevaga 14. Lachlan Burr 16. Ligi Sao 17. Adam Keighran 18. Josh Curran
Referees: Matt Cecchin, Adam Cassidy; Sideline Officials: Tim Alouani-Roby, Rickey McFarlane; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell, Bryan Norrie;