Canberra are bracing themselves axed NSW five-eighth Josh Reynolds to take his State of Origin omission out on them when they host Canterbury on Sunday.
Reynolds was controversially left out of Laurie Daley’s side for Wednesday’s series-opener after a tumultuous start to the season that has included two suspensions and a major injury.
Second-rower Tony Williams, who played one game for NSW last year, barely even rated a mention in the lead-up to the annual interstate clash.
Raiders skipper Jarrod Croker said he was expecting a fierce response from both players in Canberra.
“They’re State of Origin players from last year, so they’ll be out to prove a point,” Croker said.
“And they’re coached by Des Hasler, he’s one of the great coaches. So we know they’re going to come out firing and we know they’re going to be here to play.”
Croker hoped a couple of his own teammates will also be extra motivated by their representative snubbing.
Five-eighth Blake Austin has been one of the in-form players over the opening 10 rounds but couldn’t force his way in, while Kangaroos prop Josh Papalii was also left out of Mal Meninga’s Maroons squad.
“Obviously they’re playing well enough footy to be talked about, so hopefully they just keep playing footy and keep putting pressure on the guys that are in front of them,” Croker said.
Despite being named by Hasler, Bulldogs captain James Graham has failed to recover from a concussion problem, while centre Chase Stanley has succumbed to a knee issue.
The Bulldogs have four players on Origin duty, while The Raiders are at full strength.
STATS THAT MATTER
– The Bulldogs will be aiming to become just the fourth team in premiership history to brig up 900 wins in what will be their 1734th match. So far, only the Roosters, Rabbitohs and St George have won 900 premiership matches.
– The Raiders have won 13 of 14 matches since 2014 when scoring 22 points or more, but have lost all 20 games when scoring 21 points or less. Under Des Hasler (2013-15), the Bulldogs are undefeated when scoring over 20 points, winning 39 from 39.
– The Raiders are scoring the most points this season (22.9 per game) and they also have the best red zone attack, scoring a try from inside the 20m for every 8.1 tackles they have in the zone. Over the past five matches, the Raiders have outscored their opponents 46-0 in the final 20 minutes of the match.