Raiders decisive over Wighton and Paulo

In a tale ot two decisions, Canberra Raiders fullback Jack Wighton has made a courageous one, while it’s hoped the other will help big bopper Junior Paulo hit his NRL campaign running.
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Raiders coach Ricky Stuart hailed Wighton’s call to rule himself out last week as courageous as they prepare to welcome their No.1 back for their massive clash against reigning premiers Cronulla at Canberra Stadium on Saturday.

Wighton fell ill on game day last weekend for the Green Machine’s season opener against the North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville and eventually ruled himself out just hours before kick off, opening the door for Zac Santo to play his third NRL game.

Stuart said Wighton was right to return as the Raiders look for their first win of the season.

Last season Wighton proved to be a talisman for Canberra, his patch of great form in the second half of the season part of the reason they went on a 10-game winning streak and a charge deep into the finals.

“It was just very unlucky. He woke up at 4am on Saturday in North Queensland with bad stomach cramps and then he was ill all day,” Stuart said of Wighton.

“It was touch and go and the decision was left to Jack and it was probably more the courageous decision to say, ‘No I can’t play’.

“That was 1?? hours before kick off. Disappointing to lose Jack be we were lucky to have Zac on standby in North Queensland as one of our players ready to stand up.”

Stuart decided to take Paulo to Townsville so he could train with the squad last week, even though he was suspended for round one.

It was to allow the Green Machine to continue to build their combinations looking forward in the season.

Paulo comes back into the line-up to face the Sharks, who boast a forward pack with Paul Gallen, Andrew Fifita, Luke Lewis and Wade Graham.

It’s a timely boost for the Raiders, who have lost Clay Priest (suspension) and Joe Tapine (hand) this week, while Dave Taylor (suspension) also remains unavailable until round three if he recovers from an ankle injury.

Stuart was hoping that decision to take Paulo north will pay off when the Sharks come south.

“He came away with us and trained in North Queensland, which was a benefit for Junior to be able to keep training with our performance team,” the Raiders coach said.

“He’s fit and he’s healthy and he really is excited about the challenge and he’s excited about getting his first game for ’17.”

Stuart said things weren’t going the Raiders’ way in terms of suspensions and injuries, which have forced them to chop and change their line-up in the opening two rounds of the season.

It’s meant he’s had to switch second-rower Elliott Whitehead to centre, but it’s also enabled the Canberra mentor to blood new players.

Eighteen-year-old Nick Cotric made his debut on the wing against the Cowboys and now former Shark second-rower Scott Sorensen will make his Raiders debut off the bench against his old club.

He played three NRL games for Cronulla, but came to Canberra through their NSW Cup affiliate Mounties last season.

“I like what I saw last year when he was playing for Mounties at premier league. Very professional young player, he’s very fit, he’s healthy and he’s got a lot of great desire and attitude,” Stuart said.

“I wouldn’t be playing Scotty if I didn’t think he was up to first-grade standard, he certainly is.

“I enjoy debuting young boys because I love seeing their body language, I love seeing their excitement. That’s what it’s all about.”

NRL ROUND TWO

Saturday: Canberra Raiders v Cronulla Sharks at Canberra Stadium, 7.30pm. Tickets available from Ticketek.

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Stuart calls for 20,000 to resume the Viking clap

Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart wants more than 20,000 fans to reverberate the Viking clap around Canberra Stadium for the their massive clash against Cronulla on Saturday night.
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It’s the Viking clap Stuart is expecting other NRL clubs will be looking at in order to create a similar atmosphere at their own home games.

Cronulla even tried to claim it as their own for last year’s grand final.

The Raiders were expecting about 16,000 for their clash against the Sharks, which would be the biggest crowd at their first home game of the season since 2002 when 17,111 watched them play South Sydney.

If they can crack the 20,000 like Stuart wants, then it would be their biggest start to a season at Canberra Stadium since 1999 when 20,122 watched them take on the Brisbane Broncos.

“We’re expecting a very big crowd, it’d be lovely to get over 20,000 and continue on from where we finished last year with our wonderful support and the way the community got behind us,” Stuart said.

“It made it a really fun event for all of us involved so it would be lovely to see that again.”

He said the big crowds at the end of last season were a huge boost for the players, but he also said it was good for the game of rugby league.

It was when the Viking clap was in its infancy and Stuart expected other NRL clubs would be looking at it and trying to come up with ways to introduce something similar to their own match-day experiences.

“It’s been a very unique addition to our game and for our fans, and it’s something I think’s good for rugby league,” he said.

“I’m sure other clubs are looking at something along the same lines. It does get great participation in from the people that get to the game.”

The Raiders have had a light week on the training track, with a massive focus on recovery this week following a draining clash against North Queensland last weekend in Townsville’s stifling humidity.

They’ll finish off their preparations to face the Sharks with a “short and sharp” session on Friday.

Stuart said the addition of Cronulla five-eighth James Maloney to an experienced forward pack was why they were so hard to beat.

“They’ve got wonderful experience in [Andrew] Fifita, [Paul] Gallen, Lukey Lewis and then some brilliant young players – Jack Bird, the two halves. I forgot Maloney in regards to experience,” he said.

“Ever since Maloney got to the Sharks on the back of the big go-forward they’ve got they’ve just turned into another footy team.

“You add in the likes of their young outside backs, headed by Jack Bird, they’re a quality footy team, which is why they’ve won the comp. That’s why it’ll be a tough tussle.”

NRL ROUND TWO

Saturday: Canberra Raiders v Cronulla Sharks at Canberra Stadium, 7.30pm. Tickets available from Ticketek.

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Our sayPanthers contract puts us in the big league

BATHURST Regional Council’s contract to hostanNRL match in towneach year is certainly the envy of many other regional centres.
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The five-year contract with Penrith Panthers is unique for a regional council and talks, we are told, are already under way to extend teh deal beyond 2018.

Tickets for the 2017 clash against the Canberra Raiders on June 10 went on sale yesterday and it is to be hoped the Bathurst public will get out and support the match in their thousands.

Too often we hear people complain that there is not enough to do in our city, particularly for the young.

But there should be no excuse for any rugby league fan – young or old – to stay home on thatSaturday evening when a quality match is being played down the road.

General admission tickets for the match start at just $10 during the early bird period which continues until May 14.

Even a family pass will only sent you back $45until May 14 –pretty good value when compared to other outings with the kids.

More importantly, though, we want to see the ground packed to show the world that our community is willing to support big-ticket events when they come to our town.

There are other benefits for Bathurst,as well.

Already the contract with Panthers has seen hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of upgrades at Carrington Park that benefit local footballers as well as supporting the NRL clash.

Council has returfed the surface and put in new irrigation systems and also replaced seating in the grandstand.

In recent months we have seen a new big screen installed at the ground along with upgraded lighting and an improved public amenities block.

Then there is the exposure the match brings to Bathurst and the boost to our city’s reputation as a place where great things happen.

The NRL contract is also another example of the visitor economy in action, bringing infans from across the Central West and Blue Mountains area for a taste of big-leagueaction.

This year’s later kickoff time of5.30pmmeans many of those fans will also spend the night in Bathurst – awelcome boost for local hotels and restaurantsduring the traditional midwinter downturn.

We can hardlywait.

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Stoinis a Test bolter under horses-for-courses policy

BANGALORE: Victorian all-rounder Marcus Stoinis was picked ahead of the in-form Moises Henriques on a horses-for-courses policy, despite a wretched season in the Sheffield Shield.
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Selection chairman Trevor Hohns said Stoinis beat Henriques and unheralded Queensland all-rounder Jack Wildermuth for a ticket to India because of his strong performances here for Australia A, while his bowling was considered the most threatening of the three.

He is now vying with Glenn Maxwell, Ashton Agar and Usman Khawaja for the position vacated in the top six by the injured Mitchell Marsh.

Stoinis’ promotion will raise eyebrows among state players across the country. The all-rounder has made 172 runs at 15.63, with a highest score of 46, but was preferred instead of Henriques, who is fourth on the shield runs table and averaging 65.9, and Wildermuth, who is averaging nearly 36.

Nor does Stoinis boast the best numbers with the ball, his eight wickets at 39.5 inferior to Wildermuth’s 18 victims at 33. Hohns confirmed Henriques’ lack of recent bowling counted against him.

Stoinis, however, performed well with bat and ball for Australia A in India in 2015, when he made a 71 and claimed the wickets of Test pair Cheteshwar Pujara and Karun Nair.

“Marcus got across the line simply because during Australia A here a couple of years ago he performed very well,” Hohns said.

“Secondly, we consider to give us as many options as we possibly could have going forward in this series, we considered the stronger bowler to be the best option at this stage. That’s what got him across the line.”

Stoinis’ blistering one-day international century in New Zealand, which almost pinched Australia a come-from-behind win, was also a factor, despite coming in a different format.

“What he showed there was his ability to perform under extreme pressure,” Hohns said.

The Hilton Cartwright experiment appears to be ditched, the West Australian all-rounder not even in the frame two months after making his Test debut in Sydney.

Hohns said he was not concerned with the number of players being picked then discarded.

“We’re trying to get a core group of players that can play together for some time, and at what we consider to be the appropriate time we will introduce some younger players to give them a bit of experience and exposure to the national environment,” Hohns said.

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Power’s with the people in race to save Super Rugby sides: Dwyer

Former Wallabies coach Bob Dwyer says Western Force, ACT Brumbies and Melbourne Rebels fans need to be more convincing about why their clubs deserve to remain in Super Rugby amid speculation an Australian team could be cut as early as next season.
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On the eve of a SANZAAR meeting in London to determine the future make-up of Super Rugby, Dwyer has offered his thoughts on a convoluted and financially strained competition.

Dwyer estimated only two Super Rugby franchises at a time were financially viable and that it was up to fans and administrators at each club to prove to the Australian Rugby Union why they should remain.

The 1991 World Cup-winning coach said he was buoyed by what the Force had done in the off-season in fixing their financial situation but believed they still ran the risk of having home games taken to western Sydney, something he says could work.

Such a view was floated by former Waratahs chief executive Greg Harris, who stirred the pot last year by suggesting the Force should be scrapped and replaced by a franchise in the western suburbs of Sydney.

“I wouldn’t get rid of the Force willingly,” Dwyer told Fairfax Media, “but I would be saying if you want a team based there, as opposed to one clearly stated suggestion that they relocate to the west of Sydney – which I feel very confident would be successful – you have to show us you’re prepared to pay for that team. You show us the financial base in terms of shareholding, otherwise you can’t have one.

“If you have eight home games there’s no reason why you couldn’t play three in Perth and five in western Sydney and see if you do want to have a partnership in a team. It’s your team, Western Australia. If Perth want it, they have to show they want it.”

As for the Brumbies, who are still being tossed around as a club in danger of being cut, Dwyer says the people of Canberra need to stop being bandwagon supporters.

“Once again, you have to say to the people of Canberra, do you want a team here?” Dwyer said. “They support the team sometimes but at other times they don’t support them at all. There’s no financial support for them. That makes it extremely difficult.

“We cannot waste the game’s money, that’s non-negotiable. By their lack of financial support, it shows they’re not interested. Oh, they want a team if someone is prepared to pay for it for them? Well, we all want stuff for free but that’s not the way the world works.”

While stopping short of saying which of the three franchises would be best to chop, Dwyer made it clear the Rebels were on notice.

A bye seems to have come at an opportune time for Tony McGahan’s men but they still have tough games ahead after conceding a whopping 127 points in their opening two fixtures.

Asked whether the Rebels’ recent poor results had reaffirmed their troubles, Dwyer said: “Absolutely it does, of course it does. Losing is one thing but losing heavily is entirely another thing.”

Dwyer says the danger of continually propping up financially troubled Super Rugby clubs was that important funding was being deprived from the grassroots level, which he believes is the most important arm of Australian rugby.

“The one thing we can’t do, because it’s criminally negligent, is we can’t waste the game’s money,” Dwyer said. “The money that is going into Super Rugby does not belong to the Australian Rugby Union. The money comes from the game’s supporters, from the game’s grassroots. We can’t take money from our grassroots from the widest base of support for our game and waste it. We are wasting it.”

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