Saturday’s first NRL Round 4 match is between Canberra Raiders and Gold Coast Titans. The opening bounce is set to commence at 17:35 local time with the game to be played at GIO Stadium. The home team Canberra Raiders are the favourites for the match. View our preview and teams for the game between Canberra Raiders and Gold Coast Titans.
When: 17:35 | Saturday 26/03/2016
Where: GIO Stadium
Tip: Canberra Raiders at $1.42
Value Tip: First Try Scorer: Josh Papalii at $18.00
1. Jack Wighton 2. Edrick Lee 3: Jarrod Croker 4. Brenko Lee 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Elliott Whitehead 7. Sam Williams 8. Shannon Boyd 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Frank-Paul Nuuausala 11. Josh Papalii 12. Iosia Soliola 13. Shaun Fensom 14. Kurt Baptiste 15. Joseph Tapine 16. Paul Vaughan 17. Jeff Lima
* Canberra have named an unchanged 17 from the team that played Newcastle, with Elliott Whitehead to stay at five-eighth.
1. David Mead 2. Anthony Don 3. Josh Hoffman 4. John Olive 5. Nene Macdonald 6. Tyrone Roberts 7. Ashley Taylor 8. David Shillington 9. Nathan Friend 10. Agnatius Paasi 11. Zeb Taia 12. Chris McQueen 13. Greg Bird 14. Luke Douglas 15. Ryan James 16. Leivaha Pulu 17. Daniel Mortimer 18. Eddy Pettybourne
* Nathan Davis and William Zillman have both been left out of the Titans side, with John Olive retaining his place. Eddy Pettybourne is 18th man.
Canberra will be without their first-choice NRL halves for at least another fortnight, with coach Ricky Stuart keen to hold back the star pair until they’re fully fit.
Aidan Sezer (eye socket) and Blake Austin (knee) had originally been slated for a round five return, a month after suffering their injuries in the Raiders’ season-opening win over Penrith.
But with the Raiders one of only two unbeaten teams – along with Melbourne – after the opening four rounds of the season, Stuart said he would not be taking any risks by rushing back the duo.
“They’re both pretty serious injuries so I don’t want them back – whether it’s round seven or even eight – until they’re 100 per cent,” he said on Thursday.
“We’ll just keep battling through the way we are the moment, but it’s more important for me to have them back at 100 per cent than playing at 90-95 per cent. It’s too early in the season.
“I’d rather wait another week or two before I get them back if that’s the case.”
Sezer only returned to full running on Thursday, while Austin has completed two sessions of straight-line running.
While it was a no-brainer for Stuart to slide in Sam Williams at halfback, he’s tried a few different options in the No.6 jumper.
Rookie Lachlan Croker was handed his debut at five-eighth against the Sydney Roosters, only to be replaced by hooker Josh Hodgson in the second half after going down with a shoulder injury.
England international Elliott Whitehead was shifted from the back-row into the halves for last week’s 24-24 draw with Newcastle, and will retain his spot against Gold Coast at GIO Stadium on Saturday.
“We’re playing with one half,” said Stuart.
“Elliott’s such a skilful player, he’s just a wonderful player and to be able to come in and fill in at five-eighth is a credit to his talent.
“But he’s not a natural five-eighth, he’s not a natural half, so that puts a little bit of a change in our style of game.”
*Odds correct at time of posting. Subject to change