Which team will put their struggles aside in Friday Night Football?
Both the Raiders and Dragons have struggled over the past two months and desperately need the win here to get their seasons back on track.
Canberra should be more desperate as they are sitting three wins outside the top eight and really cannot afford to drop too many more games in the run home. They go into this fresh off the bye but prior to that they were extremely disappointing in dropping a 31-18 result to North Queensland in the nation’s capital.
Stgeorge Illawarra’s good start to the season is now a distant memory after they’ve won just three of their past nine games including a disappointing 20-10 defeat at the hands of the Gold Coast a fortnight ago.
WHAT’S GONE WRONG?
CANBERRA were meant to be fighting it out for the premiership, however, they are now battling just to make the semis.
Their attack is still capable of generating points (22.12ppg) but their defence has conceded 331 points in 16 games this season and that simply hasn’t been good enough.
One of the features of their run to the Preliminary Final last season was a strong home record but that hasn’t materialised this season. They are 4-4 at GIO and have dropped two straight in what is a four-game stretch in front of their fans.
If they are to get to the finals series they pretty much need to win every game from here on in.
It appears as though STGEORGE ILLAWARRA have reverted back to the 2016 model.
Inability to score points, lack of creativity and predictability has overcome this side which were one of the surprise packets of the competition for the first two months of the season.
For the first third of the 2017 campaign, Stgeorge Illawarra were the best attacking team in the comp but have dropped off alarmingly in their past five games. Since Round 13 they have averaged just 14 points but that figure is inflated when you take into consideration the 32 points they put on the Knights two games ago.
STGEORGE ILLAWARRA are shooting for three straight wins at GIO Stadium.
That statistic itself is unbelievable considering that the Raiders had the biggest hoodoo over the Dragons at the venue since 2001 which stretched a whopping 11 games. Consider that long and hard as that includes the Wayne Bennett era (2009-11) which of course yielded them a premiership.
Even the legendary coach couldn’t put an end to the curse but ultimately the Red V finally won at GIO in 2014 but then backed it up again in 2015.
Stgeorge Illawarra are now riding a four-game winning streak over Canberra and will be shooting for five straight wins against them for the first time this century.
Margin bettors will be keen to note that the average winning margin between the sides is just 8.7 points in the past 13 games.
A lot will depend on how Josh Dugan and Josh Papalii come out of Origin.
The pair are definite x-factor players for their respective sides but the advantage sits with the Raiders here as Papalii has been named to take his place on the field, while coach Paul Mcgregor has named Dugan as a reserve.
With Dugan set to play a bit-part role, if any, and Tyson Frizell already given the game off to recuperate from Origin, it will make things difficult for the Dragons who have struggled when they haven’t been able to field their top 13.
The Red V isn’t flush with depth and with several players having to reshuffle through injury and suspension this season it has definitely thrown the Dragons off course.
We see something similar happening on Friday night and although the game will be close, Canberra ($1.64 @ Unibet) should break their four-game losing streak and get back to winning ways here.
Stgeorge Illawarra has struggled to contain sides that score the majority of their points through the flanks and Canberra is one of those. Jordan Rapana and Joey Leilua have 23 tries between them in 2017 while the other wing/centre pairing of Cotric / Croker have 16.
Expect to see plenty of traffic come through the Nene MacDonald / Taane Milne flank and there will be a few tries on the offing there for sure.
JARROD CROKER TO SCORE AT ANYTIME