Canberra’s full complement of representative stars will turn out against St George Illawarra after turning down coach Ricky Stuart’s offer to sit out the NRL match.
Stuart had extended an invitation to his rep stars, including Kangaroos forward Josh Papalii, to skip Thursday night’s clash at Kogarah Oval – just four days after the City-Country fixture.
Stuart said it would be courageous for the players to stand down if they felt they couldn’t give their best to the side amid fears of burnout.
But Papalii said he was keen to return to the NRL after the rep weekend.
“I think the boys pulled up a little bit sore but I think everyone will be alright,” he said on Wednesday in Canberra.
“We’ve only had one session on Tuesday … but the boys are ready to go and there are definitely no excuses for tomorrow night.”
Canberra have five players from Sunday afternoon’s representative fixture in Tamworth in Country’s Shannon Boyd, Paul Vaughan, Jack Wighton and skipper Jarrod Croker and City playmaker Aidan Sezer backing up.
Croker praised Stuart’s stance.
“I think Ricky was genuine about that,” he said.
“If you’re not right to play, then you’re probably better off having someone there that’s fresh and ready to go.
“Good luck telling any of the boys that they’re not going to not play, especially the four Country boys – they want to turn around what we did on Sunday.
“It takes a bit of courage to say that. No one wants to do it – everyone wants to say ‘nah, nah, I’m right’. But if you’re not right, you’re not right.
“But I think everyone’s pretty sweet to go.”
The Dragons will be without Jack de Belin, who is out for six weeks due to a shoulder injury picked up in City/Country. Joel Thompson returns from suspension in his place.
* St George Illawarra have won just nine of 26 matches against Canberra (34.6 per cent), its second worst record against any current team behind Melbourne (25 per cent). But the Dragons have won their past three matches against the Raiders
* The Dragons are the only team yet to score more than 20 points in a game this season
* Canberra are one of two teams, with Brisbane, yet to lose the penalty count this season. They are receiving the most penalties of any team at 9.9 per game
* The Dragons are 0-3 when Josh Dugan plays in the centres but 4-2 when he is at fullback this season. He has been named at fullback for this fixture
Source: Fox Sports Stats