Rugby League


Raiders holding back to hit opener hard

The heavy hitters are back, but the Canberra Raiders are taking a cautious approach with star fullback Josh Dugan for their final trial game of the pre-season.

While second-rower Joel Thompson and workaholic lock Shaun Fensom have been recalled for Saturday night's match against the Canterbury Bulldogs in Goulburn, Dugan will be rested after picking up a slight ankle sprain last weekend.

The former NSW custodian has had a history of serious ankle injuries, but is expected to be fit for the Raiders' season opener against Penrith on March 10.

Also on the sidelines is Jack Wighton, who is nursing a fracture in his hand sustained in the NRL All Stars game a fortnight ago. He should return to face the Panthers, while centre Jarrod Croker is hopeful of recovering in time from a knee injury.

Raiders assistant coach Andrew Dunemann said there was no need to risk the back-line duo less than three weeks before the start of the season.

''Although we're going to get a lot out of the trial, we just want to make sure they're going to be 100 per cent right for the first game,'' Dunemann said.


''Jacko got a little fracture from the All Stars game but he should be right for round one, and Duges is basically just a precaution.''

Dugan's absence allows Reece Robinson to slip back to fullback after impressing in the makeshift role last season.

The Raiders will unleash a near full-strength forward pack on last year's beaten grand finalists, with Fensom and Thompson returning to the 24-man squad. They were rested from last week's trial wins against NSW Cup teams Mounties and Wyong.

Thompson carried a shoulder injury into his appearance for the Indigenous All Stars, while Fensom has had ankle and biceps injuries.

''Everyone knows what he gives to this team,'' Dunemann said of Fensom, the back-to-back winner of the Raiders' best-and-fairest award. ''He's an inspirational player and does all the little things so he's going to be really crucial.''

Brett White continues his comeback from a knee reconstruction after playing 15 minutes in his first game back in nine months. Hooker Matt McIlwrick has been named despite dislocating a rib last weekend, with a decision on his fitness to be made on Thursday.

About 2200 tickets had been sold for the match as of Tuesday night.


NRL trial match: Canberra Raiders v Canterbury Bulldogs at Goulburn Workers Arena, 7pm. For tickets, phone the Goulburn Workers Club on (02) 4821 3355.