Raiders set to turn up NRL heat on Sharks

Their flame barely flickered last weekend, but Canberra are ready to fire up the blow torch for Sunday’s home NRL clash with Cronulla.

The Raiders were burned by the Eels at Pirtek Stadium, losing by 30 points after trailing 24-0 at halftime.

It was their worst defeat since 2014 and a far cry from their winning performance a week earlier against Canterbury.

They have lost two of their past three matches, while the fourth-placed Sharks are chasing their fourth win in a row.

Star five-eighth Blake Austin said avoiding a slow start at GIO Stadium would be crucial.

“We’ve got to get in that grind, get ourselves in the contest better that what we did last week,” he said.

But it’ll be a tough ask against a forward pack boasting the likes of Andrew Fifita and Paul Gallen, and without the help of Sia Soliola (arm), Jeff Lima (hand) and possibly Paul Vaughan (ankle) who remains in doubt.

A question mark also remains next to in-form hooker Josh Hodgson after hurting his thumb against the Eels.

“They’ve got some world-class forwards and it’s going to be big task,” Austin said.

“But it’s not something that’s beyond us.

“They’re pretty similar to us. They’ve got a forward pack they rely on and then their outside backs come into their own, similar to us.

“We’re going to have to fight fire with fire and meet them in the middle of the park.

“Hopefully, we can win that battle because it’ll go a long way to winning the game.”

Skipper Jarrod Croker said the Raiders needed to find the line speed and aggression they had against the Bulldogs at Belmore earlier this month, which came on the back of a heartbreaking last-second loss to Gold Coast at home.

“We’ve got that same sort of mindset, but we need to have that mindset every week – win, lose or draw,” he said.

The Raiders play host again next week to the Wests Tigers, before heading to Bathurst for a clash with Penrith ahead of the representative weekend.

“We’re looking for two in a row, but we just need to concentrate on Sunday first,” Croker said.

“It’s three big weeks for us.”

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