Canberra were beaten into submission by the Sydney Roosters last time they met, and coach Ricky Stuart admits he’s unsure if intimidation will again be a factor in Saturday’s NRL clash.
The Roosters have walked away winners in their past three matches, their most recent a 34-6 drubbing at Allianz Stadium in round four last year.
Trent Robinson’s men led 18-0 at halftime and kept the Raiders scoreless in the second term.
“They bashed us up bad and I think that we were quite intimidated,” Stuart said on Friday.
“It’ll be interesting to see where we’re at now. It’s a wait-and-see.”
While the Roosters are missing the likes of injured heavy hitters Boyd Cornder and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Stuart is still expecting a revved-up Roosters at GIO Stadium after their big season-opening loss to fierce rivals South Sydney.
Having coached them to a premiership in 2002, Stuart felt the tricolours were a lot better football team than the 42-10 result suggested.
“They’ll be ready and very much prepared to redeem their performance,” he said.
The Raiders are one-up following their round one victory over Penrith but a couple of key men down, with star playmakers Blake Austin (knee) and Aidan Sezer (eye socket) both injured.
Rookie Lachlan Croker will be handed his debut at five-eighth, alongside halfback Sam Williams – a new combination at NRL level, but one that was in development during the off-season when Austin and Sezer were in rehabilitation.
Stuart said Croker, nephew of club legend Jason Croker, expected to be picked.
“That was a great sign of courage and confidence for me,” he said.
“He’s a very mature young guy and has got a great footy head on his shoulders, and I’m looking forward to him playing and starting his career.”
Williams (62 NRL games) will be the most experienced half on the field this Saturday, with Roosters’ duo Jackson Hastings and Jayden Nikorima sharing just 21 first-grade games between them.
Stuart doesn’t think the game will be won or lost in the halves, but rather among “the big boys in the middle.”
He reckons Blake Ferguson will also play a key role in his new position at fullback and in his first game in the nation’s capital since being sacked by the Raiders in 2013.
“It is a big job at fullback, but Blake’s a wonderful talent,” he said.
“He’s a world-class player and he’ll handle that position; he can handle three or four positions in the team and do a good job at it, very similar to our bloke Jack Wighton.”
* The Roosters have won 22 from 31 NRL matches against the Raiders, but none in Canberra since 2010. The Raiders have won six of their past eight at home against the tricolours.
* Four of their last six meetings have been decided by six points or less
* The Raiders haven’t won their first two games of a season since 2005
(Source: Fox Sports Stats)