By Nathan Beuman
The St George Illawarra Dragons will be looking to record their first win of the new season this against the Canberra Raiders at GIO Stadium, Canberra on Saturday (5.30pm).
Despite losing their opening two games of the season, the Dragons will be confident they can turn it around this weekend and replicate last years 34-16 win against the Green Machine in Canberra, snapping a 14-year-old “hoodoo”.
While last Monday’s performance against the Wests Tigers was not what Head Coach Paul McGregor was hoping for, the fact there were no major injuries out of the game has allowed him to name a largely unchanged side.
While a 0-2 start is not ideal, not all is doom and gloom, with the Dragons having given up the least missed tackles through the opening two rounds (37), with the second least belonging to their opponents this Saturday night, the Canberra Raiders (40).
Much like the Dragons, the Raiders early season form hasn’t been setting the world on fire, with a narrow win over the Cronulla Sharks and an 18-6 loss at home to the New Zealand Warriors having Head Coach Ricky Stuart asking questions.
The omission of exciting young fullback Jack Wighton through injury will be a huge loss at the back for Canberra, forcing a major reshuffle across the 17-man side.
One of the major concerns for Stuart will be his teams inability to make tackle busts, with the Raiders having made the second fewest in the competition with 42, only in front of the Manly Sea Eagles.
The Dragons have named a largely unchanged side to the one that went down to the Wests Tigers on Monday night, with George Rose coming into the start 13, while Rory O’Brien moves back to the bench.
Dragons fullback Josh Dugan will continued to be assessed in the build-up to the match after commencing light field work duties.
In comparison, Jack Wighton has been ruled out with a facial injury, forcing a major reshuffle of the Canberra Raiders side.
Jordan Rapana has been named in the custodian’s jersey, with Jeremy Hawkins being dropped in favour of Edrick Lee on the wing.
Jarrad Kennedy moves from the second row into the centres, allowing Josh Papalii to play in the second row, while Dane Tilse makes his way into the starting line-up to play his 200th first-grade game.
While the Dragons’ struggles in the nation’s capital in recent years have been well publicised, the team snapped a 14-year-old “hoodoo” last year, with a comprehensive 34-16 win at GIO Stadium.
Of the 24 times the two sides have come together, the Raiders hold a considerable advantage, winning two out of every three meetings.