Ricky Stuart confident Canberra Raiders won't suffer Gold Coast hangover against Newcastle Knights
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Ricky Stuart confident Canberra Raiders won't suffer Gold Coast hangover against Newcastle Knights

Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart is confident the Green Machine won't suffer from a Gold Coast hangover when they run out against the Newcastle Knights.

But Stuart revealed they will be without New Zealand second-rower Joe Tapine for the next "three or four weeks".

Ricky Stuart says there won't be a Gold Coast hangover against the Knights.

Ricky Stuart says there won't be a Gold Coast hangover against the Knights.

The Raiders were left stunned after their first-round loss to the Titans, conceding a converted try in the last two minutes to lose by two points.

But Stuart was confident that was behind them as they look to get their first win of the NRL season at Canberra Stadium on Sunday.

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"They've bounced back very well. It's the first thing I spoke to them about after the game in regards to checking our emotions," he said on Friday.

"After playing so well and then losing on the back end of that game it can knock you around, but it's important to deal with it and we've spoken about it this week.

"We spoke about it straight after the game. I've got no dramas going into this game that that will have any effect now."

Stuart was forced into a forward-pack reshuffle after Tapine dislocated his thumb against the Titans.

Elliott Whitehead was named to take his place in the second row, with Luke Bateman coming in to lock.

Tapine looks set to be out until at least round five, when the Raiders host the Canterbury Bulldogs on April 5.

It means Whitehead could have an extended run in his preferred position, having made a highly successful move to lock at the back-end of last season.

The 28-year-old has played second row all but one of his 13 Tests for England, with his one other appearance off the bench.

"Elliott's excited to move back out on to the edge, which is probably his preferred position, but he does such a great job for us in the middle he makes us a better football team with him there," Stuart said.

"But Joe Tapine's a big loss, he's probably one of our best last week and losing Joe for three or four weeks is a big dent.

"But we're fortunate we've got experience in Elliott who can fill that spot. It's handy having that depth."

Newcastle bring a "new-look team" to Canberra Stadium, having blooded nine debutants in round one.

That included NSW halfback Mitchell Pearce, as well as young gun Kalyn Ponga and Queensland veteran Aidan Guerra.

Stuart said Pearce added "important experience" to the Knights and he was expecting them to be just as strong as they were in round one - when Pearce kicked a field goal to beat Manly.

Pearce leads the NRL for kick metres (492m) and Stuart said his back three - fullback Jack Wighton and wingers Nick Cotric and Jordan Rapana - had looked at what to expect on Sunday.

"They've done some work on the Newcastle kicking game. It's important that you put an emphasis on that," Stuart said.

"He's a smart tactical kicker Mitchell. He really does control their kick game so it's important we're up to scratch in regards to our reception on that."

The Raiders will pay tribute to Kato Ottio, who died of severe heat stroke during the off-season, flying his mother and siblings over from Papua New Guinea for the game.

NRL ROUND TWO

Sunday: Canberra Raiders v Newcastle Knights at Canberra Stadium, 6.30pm. Tickets available from Ticketek.

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Raiders squad: 1. Jack Wighton, 2. Nick Cotric, 3. Jarrod Croker (C), 4. Joey Leilua, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Blake Austin, 7. Sam Williams, 8. Sia Soliola, 9. Siliva Havili, 10. Shannon Boyd, 11. Josh Papalii, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Luke Bateman. Interchange from: 14. Aidan Sezer, 15. Junior Paulo, 16. Dunamis Lui, 17. Charlie Gubb, 18. Craig Garvey, 19. Michael Oldfield, 20. Royce Hunt, 21. Jack Murchie.

Knights squad: 1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 3. Sione Mata'utia, 4. Tautau Moga, 5. Nathan Ross, 6. Connor Watson, 7. Mitchell Pearce (c), 8. Herman Ese'ese, 9. Slade Griffin, 10. Jacob Lillyman, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Aidan Guerra, 13. Mitchell Barnett. Interchange from: 14. Brock Lamb, 15. Chris Heighington, 16. Jamie Buhrer (c), 17. Daniel Saifiti, 18. Ken Sio, 19. Jacob Saifiti, 20. Daniel Levi, 21. Luke Yates.

David Polkinghorne covers the Canberra Raiders, local rugby league, Canberra Cavalry, racing and cycling, along with every other sport, for The Canberra Times.

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