Banged-up Raiders must stop the unstoppable
All-firing Green machine?
Banged-up Datsun, more like it.
The Canberra Raiders humming start to 2019 has struck a major obstacle with injuries forcing coach Ricky Stuart to name a virtually unrecognisable right-side against the devastating left-side of competition heavyweights, the Sydney Roosters.
Ricky's third-placed Raiders face their greatest test this season, up against NRL Ferarri's, the first-placed Roosters on Sunday afternoon at Suncorp Stadium.
Having commenced the season with points, power and confidence, Sunday is the challenge the Raiders will welcome.
But in a case of shocking timing, Stuart is in danger of losing his entire right-side to injury for the Magic Round clash with outstanding right-edge forward John Bateman (cheekbone) and gun centre Joey Leilua (bulging disc) ruled out - and Kiwi winger Jordan Rapana (ribs) needing to pass a fitness test later this week.
It's means Stuart will call-on a trio of rookies and a 28-year-old journeyman to defend against NSW Origin captain Boyd Cordner, the game's best centre Latrell Mitchell and two-time premiership-winning winger, Daniel Tupou.
Just five games into his NRL career, rookie Raiders backrower Hudson Young will be instructed to shutdown Cordner.
In his NRL infancy with just five games to his name, Young's salary would be five times less than Cordner's.
In the centre's, the well-travelled Michael Oldfield - who has played for six clubs in seven seasons - has the unenviable job of silencing Mitchell - who many believe is the greatest player in the game.
And on the wing, little-known 21-year-old Bailey Simonsson is on standby to play his third NRL game - should Rapana be ruled out - opposite 142-game veteran, Tupou.
Rapana is batting a rib cartilage injury and will be given until Saturday's captain's run to prove his fitness.
Stuart conceded the increasing casualty ward in Canberra was far from ideal.
But claimed Sunday's clash with the Roosters would be an important chapter in the development of his side.
"Sure, it's not ideal,'' Stuart said of his club's current injury toll.
"We're a bit stretched in a few positions at the moment.
"But what it does do, is give our young a great test against the best team in the competition.
"If you want to test yourself as an individual, there's no better way to do that than by coming up against the best.
The loss of Bateman for the next six weeks after the England international suffered a fractured cheekbone last weekend is a massive blow to the Raiders momentum.
And if Bateman's omission wasn't bad enough, the club's medical staff are unable to determine when Joey Leilua will be available for selection.
The Raiders can only say he is out "indefinitely".
Leilua has a bulging disc in his back and only time and constant rehabilitation can determine when the strike weopen will return.
Leilua was a late withdrawal last Saturday prior to kick-off against Penrith with Oldfield promoted into the side.
Showing his maturity, Oldfield handled the late call-up to replace Leilua by scoring a crucial first-half try for the Raiders.
Ironically, the Roosters are one of the club's Oldfield has represented - playing one game in 2013.
Having played 82 NRL matches, Oldfield made his debut with Manly in 2010, before linking with the Roosters in 2013, Catalans in 2014, South Sydney in 2016, Penrith in 2017 and then the Raiders later the same year.