Rugby League

NRL: Sia Soliola, Josh Papalii the men to stop as David Shillington returns to Canberra

They are the Canberra Raiders' 'Bash Brothers' and David Shillington believes the potency of back row weapons Sia Soliola and Josh Papalii could give his former team a big advantage this season.

Strike second rowers are hard to come by and not only are the Raiders duo regarded as two of the biggest hitters in the game, but work hard and can find the try-line.

David Shillington and Josh Papalii when they were Canberra Raiders teammates in 2013.
David Shillington and Josh Papalii when they were Canberra Raiders teammates in 2013.  Photo: Colleen Petch

Papalii traditionally begins seasons slowly but has been one of Canberra's best in their undefeated start to the season.

Looking to cement a Queensland Origin berth, the 23-year-old scored a second-half double to help Canberra beat the Roosters in round two, and scored another in last week's 24-all draw at Newcastle.

Soliola has started the season playing prop off the bench, but scored a try against the Knights in his return to the starting back row after Elliott Whitehead shifted to the halves.

Last year's Mal Meninga medallist also ran for 127 metres and made 46 tackles in the golden point stalemate.

Advertisement

Shillington is part of an experienced forward pack Gold Coast will bring to Canberra on Saturday, his first game against the Raiders since he left after seven seasons.

"Where they're really going to be damaging is on the edges with Papalii and Soliola, those type of guys," Shillington said.

"It gives them an edge over other teams. They've obviously learned how to grind out games and they're doing it really well.

"They've got a pretty good balance, some speed out wide and some massive fellas in the middle.

"It'll be interesting to try and tackle Boydy [Shannon Boyd], they have big fellas who can run fast."

Banter with young Raiders forwards he used to mentor has been flying thick and fast, with the 32-year-old veteran telling Gold Coast media this week he wants to shut down Shannon Boyd.

Shillington has nine years on the Raiders giant, who is up to 15 kilograms heavier than the former Queensland Origin prop.

"There's been a bit of banter already, it started last week actually," Shillington said.

"[There's] a couple of forwards I'm looking to run over, and they told me they're going to run over me.

"They've got a big forward pack, it's huge and they're a major advantage to that team which we're trying to stop.

"I'll probably try and take down the biggest one and that's Shannon Boyd. He claims he's 122 kilos but he's more like 127."

Canberra's halves Aidan Sezer and Blake Austin are sidelined through injury, but unheralded Titans duo Ashley Taylor and Tyrone Roberts have been pivotal in their unexpected strong start.

Gold Coast have won two of three games, including a second-half blitz in last week's 30-18 victory over the Tigers where their playmakers took over.

"When Tyrone and Ash kicked into gear for us on the weekend it just changed the whole dynamics of the team," Shillington said.

"When they started playing forward on the footy and the edges were running hard off them, it totally changed our attack.

"They were fantastic on the weekend and we need them to do that every week.

"They [Canberra] have got an unreal roster, it's a shame they're missing their halves because it's one of the best halves pairings in the comp."

A chance to be coached by Neil Henry, now with Gold Coast, was a major reason why Shillington signed with the Raiders from 2009.

Henry quit the Raiders to join North Queensland before he arrived, but the 32-year-old has finally got his wish.

"I've been really happy in that regard being coached by Neil," Shillington said.

"We've got Matt Ford up here as head strength and conditioner, who used to be at Canberra, and he's the ultimate trainer.

"There has been some incredibly tough sessions where people literally passed out from the heat with exhaustion, but I guess we've been rewarded for that.

"The workload Fordy had in Melbourne [at Storm] he brought up here, and maybe he didn't factor in the heat and humidity that we train in here."

The Titans suffered a blow with hooker and co-captain Nathan Friend not travelling to Canberra after he was ruled out due to multiple head knocks.

Friend is expected to be replaced by Kierran Moseley.

NRL - ROUND 4

Saturday: Canberra Raiders v Gold Coast Titans, at Canberra Stadium, 5.30pm. Tickets from Ticketek. TV: Live on Fox Sports 1.