Canberra are bracing for a Michael Ennis-led ambush from Cronulla when they face-off in Saturday’s NRL qualifying final in the nation’s capital.
The Sharks’ final-round loss to Melbourne opened the door for the Raiders to steal a home final with their trouncing of the Wests Tigers, setting up a mouth-watering “re-match” in week one of the finals.
Winners of 10 straight, Canberra were the catalyst for the Sharks’ late slump after ending their 16-game unbeaten run with a 30-14 upset in round 22.
Cronulla have since won just one of their past six games to fall from first to third.
However Raiders captain Jarrod Croker brushed off any suggestions of a mental advantage.
“It’s a new competition, everyone starts clean,” Croker said at the NRL finals launch on Monday.
The Raiders centre was quick to point out that Ennis was missing from the round 22 clash at Southern Cross Group Stadium, and that the Sharks hooker is pivotal to their side.
He expected the retiring Ennis to be at his menacing best on Saturday.
“We know the quality of player Mick Ennis is and how good he is around that ruck area. They’re a lot better side with him in there,” he said.
“Hopefully he doesn’t get under our skin this week. There’s no doubt he’ll be trying.”
Croker said the Raiders were unlikely to get star Blake Austin back from his hand injury, although prop Junior Paulo was expected to return from a rib injury.
Cronulla beat the Raiders 40-16 in their first meeting at GIO Stadium back in round seven.