Canberra’s season goes on the line over the next month with last year’s embarrassing fadeout to miss the NRL finals still fresh in their minds.
The Raiders’ clash with fellow finals hopefuls Gold Coast at Cbus Super Stadium on Sunday could decide the fate of both teams as they enter the round on the fringes of the top eight.
In a tight race to play September football, Raiders captain Jarrod Croker said they had identified the next three games heading into the bye as vital.
The Raiders suffered an alarming form lapse at the pointy end of 2015, losing seven of their last 11 to finish 10th.
Having not played semi-finals since 2012, the Raiders are mindful of a strong back half of the year.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a season-defining game but the next three weeks are another good block going into another bye for us,” Croker said.
“If we can string a couple together, it will set us up. They’re playing some good footy and it’ll be a good challenge for us.
“It’d be nice to string a couple together. It’s not the be-all and end-all game. But it’s definitely a massive game for us.”
Both sides are expected to have their State of Origin representatives backing up with Canberra’s Josh Papalii and Gold Coast’s Greg Bird likely to play.
Canberra centre Joey Leilua, Titans hooker Nathan Peats and prop Ryan James are all chances for NSW debuts in Origin III and will be out to push their cases.
Titans fullback Will Zillman is in doubt with a foot injury, with Josh Hoffman expected to move to the back and Chris McQueen into the centres.
STATS THAT MATTER:
* The Titans have been strong finishers this year, scoring 114 of their 295 points in the final 20 minutes
* Since 2005, the Raiders have had a horrible record in Queensland, winning just five of 29 matches
* Canberra receive the most penalties of any team at nine per game and have made the most of these, scoring 39 per cent of their tries in the set after a penalty