Knights wary of free-spirit Raiders - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Knights wary of free-spirit Raiders

Ben Horne 06/08/2011 07:24:47 PM Comments (0)

Newcastle say they won't fall victim to complacency against Canberra on Sunday and expect the Raiders to be even more dangerous now they've officially dropped out of the NRL finals race.

After their stunning win over St George Illawarra two weeks ago, the green machine were holding onto the hope that a miracle playoff run was possible, but after last round's crushing loss to the Warriors that dream has been extinguished.

Canberra have been an inconsistent rabble all season, but the Knights believe they could benefit from a new lease of life now the burden of pressure football is no longer an issue.

The Knights, who in eighth spot have their finals destiny in their own hands, are wary of Raiders star Josh Dugan and are expecting the NRL's big disappointments to want to finish on a high.

Newcastle broke their attacking shackles last week with a smashing 50-20 win over Gold Coast, but coach Rick Stone said his team needs to be better.

"We understand Canberra is going to be a bit more resilient than the team we played last week and understand if they have got an attitude that they can't make the semi finals they could be even more dangerous with a bit of a care free attitude where they're going to move the ball," said Stone, who called on his players to respond to the pressure that comes with being finals bound.

"I suppose the team's maturity goes on the line a little bit, how they handle being favourites and how they handle it with most of the experts expecting them to win.

"It's a bit of a burden but it's something you've got to be able to live with and if we're going to play in the semi finals it's a game we need to win.

"How you manage Dugan in the first 20 minutes is vitally important and we've spoken about that."

Raiders' attacking weapons Dugan (ankle) and Jarrod Croker (quad) were in some doubt, but the club confirmed on Saturday they should be right to play.

However, second rower Bronson Harrison has been ruled out with a shoulder injury, and Joe Picker or Danny Galea will take his place in the starting line-up.

Croker will be buoyed on Sunday by the fact he's agreed to a contract extension to keep him at the Raiders until at least the end of 2013.

The exciting centre was already on contract for next season, but is happy to have some longer-term security.

"I'm from Goulburn and to play for the Raiders has been something that I've been happy to achieve in my short career and hopefully I can continue to keep playing for them for the long term," Croker said.

"I know we have the team and coaching staff to take us all the way at some point over the next couple of seasons and we've decided to stick together and make it happen."

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