James Tedesco and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad are set for a thrilling battle. Picture: Dan Himbrechts
James Tedesco and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad are set for a thrilling battle. Picture: Dan Himbrechts

Lockyer: Blueprint to Raiders GF boilover

THE Roosters head into Sunday night's grand final against Canberra as raging favourites but, just like the Raiders' inaugural premiership side of 1989, the Green Machine have the tools to conjure another boilover.

Here's the tactical blueprint that could see the Raiders bring the NRL trophy back to the nation's capital.

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1. RIGHT-SIDE RAM RAID

Canberra's right-edge defence will be under siege at ANZ Stadium. The Rabbitohs had some joy attacking Canberra's right side in last week's preliminary final. Cody Walker was dangerous on Souths' left edge and the Roosters will relish attacking Canberra with the Luke Keary-Latrell Mitchell alliance. There is a doubt over BJ Leilua's fitness and he will be a primary target defending at right centre for the Raiders. The fear for the Raiders is I don't believe Latrell Mitchell is operating at his peak. Like Greg Inglis, he is most lethal when he plays with an edge of aggression.

The Roosters love a short-side rush to isolate Mitchell with his opposite centre. The Raiders will get a torrid workover on their right side so they have to maintain their defensive focus.

Aides Sezer’s kicking game has to be at its best. Picture: Lukas Coch
Aides Sezer’s kicking game has to be at its best. Picture: Lukas Coch

2. HALF THE BATTLE

This is the biggest test of Aidan Sezer's career. The Raiders halfback is maligned by some but I admire Sezer's character in fighting back earlier this season to win the No.7 jumper and his organisation is one of his strengths. But his left-foot kick has to be on song on Sunday night. The Roosters won't miss a beat with Cooper Cronk's game-management experience so it's imperative Sezer holds his own and kicks Canberra into good field position. Sezer shouldn't be worried about creating points, he just has to concentrate on getting the Raiders out of their own end and being judicious with his tactical kicking.

The Roosters have to be turned around when they don't want to be and that's where Sezer's big boot can come in. Kicking early in a set to catch James Tedesco off guard can help build pressure.

Josh Papalii is the man to silence Jared Waerea-Hargreaves. Picture: Brendon Thorne
Josh Papalii is the man to silence Jared Waerea-Hargreaves. Picture: Brendon Thorne

3. COME TO PAPA

The front-row fireworks between Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Josh Papalii will be worth the price of admission. For the Raiders to have any hope, they need to win the midfield and that's where big "Papa" enters the equation. If there is one man in the Canberra line-up capable of fighting fire with fire with JWH, it's Papalii. He ran for 179 metres last week against Souths and if the Maroons hitman can replicate that, it will put Canberra on the path to glory. I believe Papalii can have the same influence as Andrew Fifita, whose barnstorming game against Melbourne in the 2016 decider led the Sharks to their maiden premiership.
Equally, Papalii will be a marked man and JWH will take their battle personally. He will literally relish taking Papalii head on. Jared is returning from a one-game suspension but the fortnight's break will freshen him up. While JWH is criticised for his aggression, he is very sound defensively and is a lot smarter technically as a footballer than he used to be. His return is a huge plus for the Roosters.

 

4. BACKFIELD BLITZ

The clash between fullbacks James Tedesco and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad is compelling. The Raiders No.1 has similar qualities to Tedesco but the NRL's newly-crowned Dally M winner will enter the decider with total confidence at the peak of his powers.

As the NRL's leading tackle-buster, Tedesco has a knack of beating the first and second man so the defensive strategy for the Raiders is crucial - hit and stick. Because of his speed, Tedesco creates overlaps so easily. Canberra's kick chase not only has to present a solid line, but their edge defenders have to make smart decisions. When Tedesco comes flying into the line, Canberra's outside men have to make a decision whether to slide or jam in to cut down Tedesco's thinking time.

As for CNK, he is best trying to attack the Roosters through the middle rather than the edges. I like Nicoll-Klokstad's skill level and he can be effective lurking around the rucks testing the Roosters' ruck defence with his speed and strength.

LISTEN! In the season finale, Matty Johns is joined by James Hooper and Paul Kent to go over this Sunday's grand final, plus how the build-up to the NRL's biggest weekend can weigh on the favoured team (and how the Roosters are counteracting it!).

5. BENCH WARFARE

The big games are heavily influenced by the impact of the benches. Canberra have to aim up here or the Roosters will blow them off the park.

Sydney possess a superb interchange headlined by Sio Siua Taukeiaho and Angus Crichton. Taukeiaho is a weapon with great footwork, while Crichton runs a great line on the edges and can punch some holes in the Raiders running off Cronk.

The Raiders' bench men have to help Papalii. Dunamis Lui, Corey Horsburgh and Emre Guler have really impressed this year with their work ethic and desire so it's crucial they make an impact when they enter the fray.

THE VERDICT

Like most people, my heart is with the Raiders as sentimental favourites but the Roosters have so much strike across the park. If Canberra try to outscore them, the Roosters will prevail on points. Cooper Cronk and Luke Keary are a superb scrumbase pairing and their composure under pressure will be the difference.