Tackle Count: NRL grand final rematch to look a little different

DELIGHT: James Tedesco (left) and his Roosters teammates start celebrating after securing victory in last year's NRL grand final against Canberra. Picture: Grant Trouville/NRL Imagery
DELIGHT: James Tedesco (left) and his Roosters teammates start celebrating after securing victory in last year's NRL grand final against Canberra. Picture: Grant Trouville/NRL Imagery

Can the Raiders cause an upset?

Ben Cummins' famous "six again" call back flip. And the ball hitting the Roosters trainer in the end.

It feels like last year's NRL grand final was remembered for all the wrong reasons but, in the end, only six points separated the premiers and the Raiders. And while memories of those controversies on October 6 will remain fresh in Canberra fans' minds, so will the image of James Tedesco dashing away to score the winner.

A lot has changed in those past nine months.

As the game continues to adjust in a COVID world, the Roosters have gone from strength to strength in 2020. And while the Roosters remain in the top four, it's hard to get a gauge on Canberra's form. They sit in seventh spot and have won just one of their last four games.

Injuries have certainly hurt the Green Machine and they will go into Thursday night's clash without inspirational hooker Josh Hodgson (knee), who is out for the season. Canberra's forward pack in particular has been devastated, - Sia Soliola, Emre Guler, John Bateman and Corey Horsburgh all are in the casualty ward.

The Roosters also have their fair share of injuries. Jake Friend, Boyd Cordner (both head knocks) and Brett Morris (groin) will play but remain under injury clouds, while Daniel Tupou is out for a month, and Victor Radley and Sam Verrils are done for 2020.

There will be plenty of fresh faces for both teams on Thursday night, including Raiders rookie Semi Valemei. Coach Ricky Stuart says the young winger's opportunity has arrived due to injuries, but he was ready to make an impact.

"He's a future NRL player. He's a big, strong Fijian boy that we see a few of in the competition," he said. "He's put a lot of work into his game. It's nice to be able to get that opportunity for him."

Elsewhere, all eyes will be on the Bulldogs when they run out onto WIN Stadium to face the Dragons on Saturday: it will be their first game since Dean Pay quit. And while interim coach Steve Georgallis settles into the seat, St George Illawarra enforcer Tariq Sims has no doubt that Paul McGregor should remain in charge at his club.

"I know they do have a process they go through but Mary's still the big dog and he has the last say," he said.

"The coaches all have their input, I know he's very open to everyone's opinions and options and he weighs them all up but, at the end of the day, it's Mary's job to pick the the team because he's always the first one to get whacked after a loss."

A number of subplots will feature this week. Can the new-look Tigers halves inspire their side to victory against Brisbane? Will Manly ever find a way to win without Tom Trbojevic? Are the Knights able to bounce back against the Rabbitohs?

The round kicks off tonight with the Roosters, Raiders blockbuster. Buckle up for another interesting start to the round.

* This edition of Tackle Count was written by Joshua Bartlett.

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