CAMPO HAS IT ON A STRING
On the comeback trail from a second serious knee injury, it appears last week’s bye came at just the right time for Terry Campese. The Raiders skipper’s kicking game in horrid conditions was superb, one of the major differences between the teams. His short and long kicking game put Parramatta’s inexperienced back three under tremendous pressure all night. He also laid on first-half tries for winger Sami Sauiluma, with a brilliant delayed cut-out pass, and Jarrod Croker, with a well-placed bomb. He came under some criticism just before the bye, but he silenced that talk with arguably his best game of the year.
DRAGONS CURSE CONTINUES
He’s not even there yet, but already Sam Williams has been struck down by St George Illawarra’s ‘Canberra curse’. Wollongong bound next year, the Raiders halfback suffered a bad syndesmosis strain in Mounties’ NSW Cup win over Newcastle at Canberra Stadium on Saturday. It was the last thing the Dragons wanted given Williams’ likely halves partner next year, Melbourne’s Gareth Widdop, is out long term with a dislocated hip. The Dragons will have their fingers crossed their other Raiders recruit for next year, Joel Thompson, keeps himself out of harm’s way for the rest of the season.
You always expect Canberra Stadium to be a little chilly in mid-July, but the conditions on Saturday were at a new level. The official temperature at kick-off was 4.4 degrees. But the apparent temperature taking in the wind chill according to the Bureau of Meteorology was -5.5. The 7023 hardy souls which braved the conditions all deserve a medal. Special mention to Canberra’s cheerleaders the Raiderettes, who still performed their pre-match routine in their normal outfits.
STAGE SET FOR DUGAN
Now Parramatta is out of the way, the Raiders have their sights set on a clash against Josh Dugan’s St George Illawarra at Wollongong. It’s a match every Canberra fan has had circled on their calendar since the Blues fullback was sacked for repeated behavioural breaches early this season. It undoubtedly will give the Raiders even more motivation to continue their remarkable recent record against the Dragons. Adding spice to the occasion is Blake Ferguson, Dugan’s ‘drinking buddy’, may return from an NRL-imposed suspension for the match. Raiders supporters will be hoping he jumps straight back on the team bus after the game.
YOUNGSTERS GETTING IT DONE
Canberra’s run of injuries this year has opened the door for several youngsters who have taken their opportunity with both hands. Backs Anthony Milford and Sami Sauiluma, and prop Paul Vaughan all haven’t missed a beat deputising for higher-profile teammates. All three were pivotal in the win over the Eels. It means the Raiders will approach the business end of the season with tremendous depth. Veteran prop Tom Learoyd-Lahrs could be available for selection next week, while Jack Wighton will likely miss one more game. Throw in the pending return of wayward centre Blake Ferguson, and things are looking rosy.
CANBERRA RAIDERS 14 (Jarrod Croker, Sami Sauiluma tries; Croker 3 goals) bt PARRAMATTA EELS 0 at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night. Referees: Jason Robinson and Gavin Morris. Crowd: 7023.