Canberra are not just expecting North Queensland’s State of Origin quartet to play on Saturday evening – they’ve done their homework on them too.
James Tamou, Johnathan Thurston, Michael Morgan and Matt Scott all had their feet up on Thursday after re-uniting with their clubmates in the nation’s capital following their Origin battle in Melbourne.
A Cowboys official said all four pulled up with a clean bill of health but a final decision would be made by coach Paul Green later on Friday.
Either way, it was clear the Raiders have studied up on the competition heavyweights – with a major emphasis on the strength of their middle third.
“They’ve got Scott and Tamou there, they’ve been very strong in bringing the ball back for them,” lock Shaun Fensom said.
“They’ve got the most post-contact metres in the comp, so it’s going to be a big challenge for us.
“But in saying that, we’ve got a lot of big forwards as well. We’ve got (Shannon) Boyd, Frank (Paul Nuuausala), and Shillo (David Shillington) there in the middle, as well as Paul Vaughan.”
Fensom also urged another teammate, Maroons reject Josh Papalii, to make an impression against the Cowboys’ pack and push to be included in the Queensland squad for the decider in Brisbane.
“He’s been playing outstanding for the last 5-6 weeks,” he said.
“(There) could be an opening in there for him to play in the third Origin.
“He’s going to want to keep up his form and keep pushing for that spot.”
Despite making his presence known in his first training session with the club, prized mid-season signing Joey Leilua will have to wait another week before making his Raiders debut.
“We had a good opposed session (on Thursday) and he was quality in defence, made a couple of good reads and he’s well liked by all the players already. He’s fitted in well,” Fensom said.
STATS THAT MATTER
– Close games have not been the order of the day for these two teams, with six of their past nine games decided by 16 points or more – including four of the past five in Canberra.
– Only six teams since 1998 have won 11 straight games in a single season, with none winning the competition. The last team to win 11 straight games and win the GF was Manly in 1987.
– Johnathan Thurston is just 10 points away from overtaking Ryan Girdler (1690 points) and entering the top 10 pointscorers of all-time. Thurston has scored 11 tries in 17 matches against the Raiders, his best tally and ratio against any opponent.