Toyota Cup looking to finish on winning note
End of season holiday trips are the last thing on the minds of these twenty year olds. Despite having no chance of making the semi finals, the Canberra Raiders Toyota Cup team has remained thoroughly resolute in their quest to finish the season on a positive note by toppling the sixth placed Canterbury Bulldogs this Sunday at ANZ Stadium.
Central to this is the fact that many senior player’s are in their final year of the National Youth Competition and are looking to not only end their careers in this arena with a fond memory, but also to put in a display that would pay due respect to Coach David Hamilton.
“It is important to go out on a positive note as it’ll be the last time a few of the boys pull on a Raiders jersey so it’s a bit of an occasion,” said skipper Matt McIlwrick.
“There’s still a lot of young guys coming through which the club should be excited about, but it’s an important game because we haven’t had a great finish to the season and it’d be great to end things with a bang by beating one of the top eight sides.”
“A win would also be a great way to say thank you to Hamo for all his help in our development.”
Hamilton has played a pivotal role in shaping these young men in a positive manner both on and off the field. He has an uncanny knack of unearthing unforseen talent coupled with a precise and individualistic development of each fine young prospect at his disposal.
With many players relocating to Canberra from as far away as New Zealand, his stern but caring nature plays a significant role in settling the next batch of Raiders juniors into a productive team environment and life in the ACT, something McIlwrick completely agrees with. Hamilton’s guidance to McIlwrick has seen the Junior Kiwi representative earn an NRL contract and touted as a solution to the club’s dummy half woes.
“I’ve been with Hamo since I was in 18s and he’s been great for my game. No matter how good your playing he keeps you level headed because he’s always pointing out thing’s you need to work on which is good for your game because it gives you something to work on.”
“Obviously I’m going to see him around the place still but it would be good to give him a win because coaches put in such hard work behind the scenes which no one recognises.”
The Bulldogs loom as a formidable opponent for the Green Machine; especially given they disposed of Canberra 38-10 in Round 11 in what Hamilton described as “the most disappointing effort of the season.”
Cantebury’s strength lies in their intimidating back row of Josh Jackson, Paul Carter and Dale Finucane, who ran riot over the Raiders in the last encounter.
Each has dominated stats for forwards for the year with Jackson the second highest one on one tackler in the competition, Carter the third highest in offloads and Finucane who leads the competition in hit ups as well as being named in the NYC team of the year.
“Last time their big boys just got over the top of us and we didn’t really aim up in defence after that which resulted in them getting a massive roll on,” McIlwrick said.
“I think the game will be won again in the forward’s. We’ve got to really step up and give it to their pack. If we shut down those sorts of guys we’ll go a long way towards winning the game. I’ll be personally trying to hunt down Finucane.”
“He’s got a huge future. He’s getting bigger and bigger and he’s still very mobile. He’ll definitely be in for a game though this weekend.”
The Bulldogs pack is not only tough and intimidating but is well adept at offloading the ball, something which fullback Daniel Abou-Sleiman takes full advantage of. Abou-Sleiman has reaped the benefit of the second phase play provided to him registering 17 tries and breaking the line the second highest amount in the competition. He also leads the competition in metres gained on kick returns with 1068.
“He’s very quick and he knows which of his forwards can do what so he’s always hunting around for their offloads. He’s definitely a key player for us to watch so we’ll need to keep an eye on him otherwise he’ll hurt us.”
“We’ve got to really be on our game this week but we can’t wait for the challenge.” Source: raiders.com.au