Five key battles to shape NRL Super Sunday showdowns
IT'S shaping up to be the biggest day of club footy on this year's NRL calendar when the competition's heavyweight teams go head to head.
Ricky Stuart's Canberra Raiders kick off what's sure to be a super Sunday when they host Trent Robinson's Sydney Roosters, while in Gosford Wayne Bennett's South Sydney Rabbitohs will be desperate to keep a place in the top four when they tackle Craig Bellamy's ladder leaders Melbourne Storm.
With five rounds of the regular season remaining, this is when the real contenders flex their muscles. Here are five key factors to kickstart the countdown.
How it'll finish: Run home for NRL finals contenders
ROBBO V RICKY
Robinson has accomplished just about everything in his time in charge of the Roosters. Since taking over in 2013, Robinson has won two premierships and four minor premierships.
But one thing he is yet to do is win a game in Canberra.
The Roosters have dropped all four games at GIO Stadium during his reign, while the Bondi boys haven't won in the nation's capital since 2010.
Though that hasn't stopped the TAB listing the Roosters as $1.80 favourites in head-to-head betting, with the Raiders paying $2.05.
Given the Raiders have won seven of their past eight games and haven't lost at home since round 11 against North Queensland, it's a safe bet to assume Stuart would be using the underdog tag to motivate his team this week against the reigning premiers.
TEDDY V CNK
In a clash that has plenty of wonderful one-on-one match ups, the battle of the fullbacks is one not to miss.
While James Tedesco is the reigning king of the No. 1s, the arrival of Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad has been one of this season's great surprises.
Breaking down their key stats, there is no disputing "Teddy" holds the advantage but the numbers for "CNK" are still super impressive.
Tedesco is averaging 16.4 runs for 184m (a career-high) and has 12 tries, nine try-assists, 18 line breaks, 11 linebreak assists and 90 tackle busts.
In comparison, Nicoll-Klokstad is averaging 17.6 runs for 167m and has 10 tries, three try-assists, nine linebreaks, six linebreak assists and 64 tackle busts.
JWH V PAPALII
In games like this, the battle of the big men is always crucial. And this is where Roosters enforcer Jared Waerea-Hargreaves' return from suspension to take on arguably this season's form front-rower in Josh Papalii should prove crucial.
With Roosters' co-captains Boyd Cordner and Jake Friend out injured and Siosiua Taukeiaho also in doubt, the Roosters forwards are going to be relying heavily on the big Kiwi to lead the charge against Canberra's in- form pack that also includes Englishmen Josh Hodgson, John Bateman and Elliott Whitehead.
Victor Radley is the other linchpin for the Roosters given his combination with halves Cooper Cronk and L uke Keary in the big win over Gold Coast was close to unstoppable.
In the backs, Latrell Mitchell's showdown with Nick Cotric, who is back from suspension, is another mouth-watering match-up.
BELLAMY V BENNETT
They are regarded as the two greatest modern-day coaches but head to head Craig Bellamy has a clear advantage over Wayne Bennet t.
Bellamy has won 24 of the 34 games between the two including the last five, while the Storm's record over Souths is equally outstanding, having won 25 of 30.
While Melbourne bounced back from their golden-point loss to Manly with a 40-4 smash up of Brisbane, the Bunnies looked lethargic going down 39-24 to Cronulla.
If the Rabbitohs lose this game they could fall out of the top four if fifth-placed Manly beat the Warriors by 14 points.
SMITH V COOK
While Damien Cook took over from Cameron Smith as Australia's Test hooker, few would argue the fact Smith is still No. 1 when it comes to influence over his team.
And with Sam Burgess facing suspension for his high shot on Matt Moylan, this is Cook's chance to prove he can do the same for the Bunnies.
Cook had an outstanding Origin series and he's given it his all in games since. But the Bunnies will need him at his very best to have any chance of knocking over the Storm.
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