Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has labelled Elliott Whitehead the "most underrated footballer" in the NRL following another stand-out performance for the Green Machine.
The English second-rower starred in the Raiders' 22-16 win over the St George-Illawarra Dragons at Canberra Stadium on Friday night.
He made a number of crucial tackles and nearly set-up a try in the first-half, showing some nice quick hands with a show-and-go pass to Jarrod Croker.
It comes after a string of strong performances in recent weeks, having scored four tries in the last eight games.
The Raiders raised a sweat when Whitehead came off the field for a head injury assessment in the second half, having copped some friendly fire from teammate Emre Guler.
The 22-year-old prop accidently scratched Whitehead's eye mid-tackle. The Englishman passed the test and came back onto the field in the 74th minute, helping the Raiders close out the match.
"He's the most underrated footballer in the competition," Stuart said.
"He went back on, he's a tough player. I have all the admiration in the world for Elliot.
"A lot of the stuff he does goes unnoticed but it doesn't go unnoticed by myself.
"That was my message to him at halftime. He doesn't like compliments but I told him I don't miss what he does."
HOME SWEET CANBERRA
The Gregan Larkham stand was sprinkled with green as 1500 diehard fans welcomed the Canberra Raiders home.
Boom, boom. Clap. Boom, boom. Clap. The smallest ever Viking Clap echoed across Canberra Stadium and chants of "Raiders, Raiders" began well before the match begun.
For what the crowd lacked in numbers was made up in volume and passion, with spectators cheering at the top of their lungs. That's what a 112 day absence of live footy does.
The Green Machine's cogs began to turn the moment Ricky Stuart's men ran onto Canberra Stadium, scoring six points in six minutes to set up the win. Home sweet home.
SIA LATER SOLIOLA
Raiders veteran Sia Soliola racked up his 100th NRL win but spent most of it on the way to hospital.
The 33-year-old prop came off the field in the 18th minute after suffering a head knock in a collision with Dragon Blake Lawrie.
He was assessed at the field and taken to hospital with a suspected fracture beneath his left eye, adding the Raiders' injury woes.
The curse continued when Emre Guler came off with a lower-leg injury in the second half, following a collision with Mikaele Ravalawa.
Canberra already has John Bateman, Corey Horsburgh and Jordan Rapana in the injury ward, a concerning outlook with three tough matches ahead.
The Raiders will look to go back-to-back against the Melbourne Storm next week, with the Sydney Roosters and South Sydney Rabbitohs to follow.
Did Bailey Simonsson know the drama he caused when he kicked the ball into the stands to celebrate his 14th minute try?
There are "ball fetchers" placed throughout the crowd who have to retrieve the ball when it's kicked into the dirty zone.
They then have to hand it to an official over the fence. The ball is then washed before it's handed to the ball boys.
Welcome to coronavirus footy in Canberra.
NO BATE FOR JOHN ASIATA
The Raiders are investigating using the "Josh Hodgson rule" to get salary cap relief for John Bateman, but they won't be using it on John Asiata.
Bateman underwent pre-season shoulder surgery after hurting the joint playing for Great Britain last year.
It opens the door for the Green Machine to use a portion of Bateman's salary to bring someone else into the squad.
While the Raiders have been linked with North Queensland middle Asiata, Canberra recruitment guru Peter Mulholland poured cold water on the prospect.
"Definitely not," he said when asked about the ball-playing forward moving to the ACT.
CANBERRA FRINGE SCRIMMAGE
Canberra's fringe NRL players had their first opportunity for some much needed game time in a scrimmage against the Dragon's extended squad.
The reserve sides played a modified match at the Raiders Headquarters in Braddon on Friday afternoon, helping boost the players' match fitness in the absence of the NSW Cup.
St George Illawarra only had six players available due to injury and suspensions, so they were split between the two eight-a-side teams.
There's plans in the works for the Raiders' extended squad to play a bigger version of the scrimmage against the Melbourne Storm next week.
NO FIRE FOR DRAGONS
Dragons might breathe fire, but St George Illawarra still struggle in the Canberra cold.
St George has won only two of their past 15 matches in Canberra, and just four of 17 matches as a merged club.
It also marks their fifth loss of the season, putting coach Paul MacGregor under further strife.