Former Balmain star Steve Roach said “big was beautiful” in the lead-up to the 2017 season, but now Fox League expert Matthew Johns thinks downsizing is exactly what the Raiders needed.
He felt teams worked out the Raiders last year – targeting their tiring middle late in games.
“I think that will suit Canberra. Slimming down and having not quite as big a pack as they had will give them a little bit more with the football,” Johns said.
“Last year was the blue print of how you played the Raiders. When you start to get a little bit of the football you take them on through the middle of the park and bust their middle open.
“I think losing some of those big blokes won’t hurt them at all.”
Part of the reshaped pack is NRL debutant Ryan Sutton, who joined the Green Machine from Super League premiers Wigan.
He’ll come off the bench and could find himself face-to-face with Boyd, who will start for the Titans alongside Queensland prop Jarrod Wallace.
Sutton said the Raiders were wary of Gold Coast’s ability to offload, but they were ready to counteract it.
While there’s been plenty made about the more mobile Raiders pack, Sutton said there was still size in the group.
Not to mention a warrior mindset.
“Playing in the middle it’s you versus them, that’s the mentality of the forward pack,” Sutton said.
“However big you are or however small you are you’re running at your opposition and that’s what I’ll try and do.
“It’s been spoken about mobility, but we’ve still got big bodies. We’ve got Papalii and Sia [Soliola] in the middle so we’ve got a good mix of people.
“Everyone’s hungry to get out there. That’s the main focus – get out there and start well.”
NRL ROUND ONE
Sunday: Canberra Raiders v Gold Coast Titans on the Gold Coast, 6.10pm. Live on Fox League.
Raiders squad: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 2. Nick Cotric, 3. Jarrod Croker (C), 4. Joey Leilua, 5. Bailey Simonsson, 6. Jack Wighton, 7. Aidan Sezer, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Josh Hodgson (C), 10. Sia Soliola, 11. Joe Tapine, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. John Bateman. Interchange: 14. Siliva Havili, 15. Ryan Sutton, 16. Dunamis Lui, 17. Corey Horsburgh. Reserves: 18. Sam Williams, 19. Jack Murchie, 20. Luke Bateman, 21. JJ Collins.
Titans squad: 1. Michael Gordon, 2. Brenko Lee, 3. Tyrone Peachey, 4. Brian Kelly, 5. Phillip Sami, 6. Tyrone Roberts, 7. Ashley Taylor, 8. Jarrod Wallace, 9. Nathan Peats, 10. Shannon Boyd, 11. Kevin Proctor, 12. Ryan James, 13. Jai Arrow. Interchange: 14. Alexander Brimson, 15. Moeaki Fotuaika, 16. Max King, 17. Bryce Cartwright. Reserves: 18. Mitch Rein, 19. Dale Copley, 20. Anthony Don, 21. Keegan Hipgrave.
David Polkinghorne covers the Canberra Raiders, local rugby league, Canberra Cavalry, racing and cycling, along with every other sport, for The Canberra Times.