THE Raiders can ease the pressure on embattled coach David Furner by extending their remarkable run of victories over St George Illawarra at Canberra Stadium tonight.
Having claimed bragging rights over Stephen Kearney and Wayne Bennett in recent weeks, Furner can make it three from three with victory against Steve Price’s Dragons.
All four coaches have been under scrutiny of late, as their teams have failed to meet expectations. Kearney’s Parramatta are at the bottom of the ladder, while the Raiders, Newcastle and the Dragons are 14th, 12th and 11th respectively. They have won just 21 of their combined 59 games this season.
”You need to have the personnel there week in, week out,” Furner said. ”There are certain teams that have been consistent, but other than that … it’s a tough comp.”
Furner was last month forced to rebuke speculation that he would stand down despite having two years left on his contract. A 32-16 victory against the Knights at Hunter Stadium released the pressure only for the Raiders to produce an error-riddled 40-18 loss to North Queensland in Townsville last week.
Price has had a tough initiation to the NRL in his first season in charge after Bennett joined the Knights. The 2010 premiers are four points outside the top eight, despite last week’s gritty 8-6 win against Gold Coast.
Working in Furner’s favour is one of the weirdest statistics in the NRL. The Raiders haven’t lost to the Dragons in Canberra since 2000 and have won 12 of their past 13 games against the Red V.
But it’s a hoodoo that Raiders prop Tom Learoyd-Lahrs is cautious about taking too seriously. ”We don’t tend to bring it up because that could lead to complacency,” he said. ”The reality is they’re a really good football side and we’ve a really big job to do. It’s a funny stat and you hear it all the time, but you can’t get bogged down with it.”
Learoyd-Lahrs and five-eighth Josh McCrone will co-captain the Raiders in the absence of skipper David Shillington, who is in camp with Queensland.
Josh Dugan’s ankle injury has allowed halfback Sam Williams to be recalled for the first time since he was exiled to the NSW Cup in May to work on his defence. Williams and McCrone have a solid understanding of each other, having spent most of last year as the team’s halves combination.
”He’s got a quiet confidence about him,” Learoyd-Lahrs said of the 21-year-old Cooma product. ”He doesn’t have to try and overplay his hand. Furnsey’s given him a job to do and he’s just got to steer the ship.”
Second-rowers Joel Thompson (hand) and Joe Picker (skin infection) have been cleared to play but Kiwi international Bronson Harrison will miss his second straight game with a hamstring injury.
Mark Nicholls makes his first-grade debut off the bench.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.