Raiders v Bulldogs
Raiders player Joel Thompson. Photo: Jay Cronan
NO BARBA, NO WORRIES
Canterbury suffered a major setback this week when when star fullback Ben Barba officially requested a release from his contract to be closer to his children in Brisbane next year. The Bulldogs are still weighing up whether to grant it, but Josh Morris proved he’d be a more than handy replacement in the No.1 jersey. The Test centre scored a try and threw the last pass for two other four-pointers in a scintillating first-half display after he was shifted to fullback.
WIGHTON GONE FOR SEASON
Another week, another Canberra Raiders outside back injured. This time it was Jack Wighton, whose season is over after he broke his right tibia in the first half. The upside is no trampolines were involved in this mishap after he missed much of last year with a toe injury. It is the last thing the Raiders need with winger Edrick Lee (broken arm) still two weeks from a return. Star centre Blake Ferguson was a late withdrawal with a minor quad tear, and Canberra will be desperate for him to prove his fitness for next week’s must-win home game against Manly.
EDGY IN DEFENCE
The shuffle caused by Wighton’s injury didn’t help, but the Raiders' edge defence was badly exposed by the Bulldogs. The left edge in particular was torn apart at will by the visitors, who targeted diminuitive halfback Sam Williams who was playing his first NRL game since round seven. Williams was dropped to address defensive issues, and he was returning from three weeks sidelined with an ankle injury. Morris terrorised him all afternoon with great success. In attack however Williams was one of Canberra’s most dangerous players. He will certainly help St George Illawarra’s rebuild when he heads to Wollongong next year.
TOUGH RUN HOME
Given they have one of the worst for and againsts in the competition, the Raiders may need to win all three of their remaining games to make the finals. Ninth-placed Canberra faces Manly (home), New Zealand (away) and Cronulla (home) to finish off the regular season. It’s a nightmare draw perhaps only matched by the eighth-placed Titans. On Saturday’s evidence, Canberra will have to improve markedly to challenge a Sea Eagles side smarting from Friday night’s loss to South Sydney.
Raiders coach David Furner was in no mood to discuss Ferguson’s future at the club post-match after reports claimed he would see a release from his contract. A Sydney newspaper claimed Ferguson wants out of the final two years of his deal to return to Sydney and be closer to his mentor, Anthony Mundine. Furner said he hadn't confronted Ferguson this week whether he wanted to leave, and abruptly left the post-match press conference when journalists grilled him further. One thing which can’t be denied is Ferguson is yet to speak about the saga, which is worrying plenty of Raiders fans.
CANTERBURY BULLDOGS 28 (Sam Perrett 3, Josh Morris, Mitch Brown, Tim Lafai tries; Trent Hodkinson 2 goals) bt CANBERRA RAIDERS 16 (Sandor Earl, Anthony Milford, Josh Papalii tries; Jarrod Croker 2 goals) at Canberra Stadium on Saturday. Crowd: 11,847. Referees: Ashley Klein and Gavin Reynolds.