Rugby League


Elliott Whitehead locked in for Canberra Raiders' trial against Canterbury Bulldogs

He finished the NRL season as a revelation at lock and that's where Elliott Whitehead's expecting to start this campaign.

The Canberra Raiders forward was still unsure of coach Ricky Stuart's final plans, but he was expecting to line-up at lock in their only pre-season trial - against the Canterbury Bulldogs on the Sunshine Coast on Saturday night.

Whitehead's an international-class second-rower, but such is the Green Machine's depth in that department, he thought it was likely he'll move back into the middle of the park after playing on the edge for England at last year's World Cup.

That shift allowed Joe Tapine to stake a claim for the second row, while the Raiders also boast Josh Papalii and Sia Soliola - plus Whitehead said young Jack Murchie had been impressing in his first full pre-season.

Whitehead's said before he doesn't mind where he plays, just as long as he's got a spot in the side.

That spot looks to be back in the middle after he starred when he shifted there in the win over Cronulla last season.


"I'll be happy to do 80 [minutes] if that's what he wants, but there'll be a few other boys that'll be itching to get a few minutes under their belt as well," Whitehead said.

"I'll be happy with 40 minutes, but if I have to play longer then I will.

"If I end up playing lock this week, which is probably more likely than not, if I play there then I'll just do my job and hopefully I'll do a good job and not let the boys down."

While it was only a trial, Whitehead said they would still be keen to get one over their former assistant coach Dean Pay.

The trial will be Pay's first game in charge of the Bulldogs, since he became their senior coach in September.

Having worked with Pay since he joined the Raiders, Whitehead expected to have an insight into how the Bulldogs would play.

It meant work would be coming the former Catalans Dragons forward's way - expecting the Bulldogs forwards to "run tough" and come through the middle.

"I don't want him [Pay] to win on the weekend, obviously we want that win ... he had some good structure here with us," he said.

"I can't see the Bulldogs being too different from what he's done here, so I imagine we know what he's planning on doing  and hopefully that helps us come Saturday."

The Raiders have been on the Sunshine Coast since Monday, fitting in a pre-seacon camp in the heat and humidity before their trial.

Then they'll have three weeks to prepare for their first-round clash against the Gold Coast Titans on the Gold Coast on March 11.

Whitehead expected the camp to help prepare them for the conditions that will greet them for that season opener.

The players trained at the stadium on Wednesday before having a session in the Sunshine Coast surf in the afternoon.

All except centre Joey Leilua, who ducked down to Ipswich to be with his partner Tiana for the birth of their second child.

"It's going to do us good all week, just to come away as a group and get to spend some time with each other - not just on the training field, but on an evening and going out for dinner, just getting to know some of the new boys as well," Whitehead said.

"The heat's going to help us with the fitness, especially as we play the Gold Coast up here in the first round so this week's probably going to give us a taste of what it's like going to the Gold Coast."


Saturday: Canberra Raiders v Canterbury Bulldogs at Sunshine Coast Stadium, 8pm.