MIDLANDS RUGBY LEAGUE

16th September 2020, 16:55 | nrl

NRL Preview | Round 19

NRL Preview | Round 19

Kangaroos prop Josh Papalii has been attracting most of the accolades about Canberra’s form this season but former St Helens forward Sia Soliola believes English frontrower Ryan Sutton deserves more credit.

Soliola, who is set to return from an horrific facial injury in Sunday’s match against the Warriors in Canberra, said Sutton was an under-rated member of the Raiders squad aiming to better last year’s grand final loss.

With Canberra forced to endure a lengthy injury toll, which includes England hooker Josh Hodgson, Turkey international Emre Guler and fellow middle forward Corey Horsburgh, Soliola said the likes of Sutton has thrived on the extra responsibility.

“We emphasise Papa but guys like Ryan Sutton, Dunamis Lui and Joe Tapine have been doing amazing jobs,” Soliola said. “We are fortunate to have someone like Ryan, and the other guys, because they provide great depth.

“If you want to win a comp you have got to have guys like Ryan on board because he has stepped up while we have had injuries. He has just been amazing with the energy he has bought in and he has got better and better with every game.”

Sutton joined the Raiders in 2019, along with Wigan team-mate John Bateman, and the arrival of the pair coincided with the Green Machine qualifying for the grand final last year against Sydney Roosters.

Hodgson and England second-rower Elliott Whitehead were already at the club and halfback George Williams joined them from Wigan this season.

“Canberra is just a great place for opportunities like that and even with Johnny Bateman, no one here really knew Johnny before he came onto the scene,” Soliola said. “Ryan Sutton has always been solid and he has been amazing since coming here.”

Soliola, who revealed he had tried blending KFC while unable to eat solid food for six weeks ​after suffering seven facial fractures in the July 3 clash with St George Illawarra, has been cleared to return in a major boost to Canberra’s premiership hopes. 

The Raiders are currently in fifth place but can secure a top four berth if they win their remaining two matches against the Warriors and Cronulla Sharks, and the Parramatta Eels or the Roosters lose.

The Roosters play the Sharks on Saturday ahead of a final round clash with arch rivals South Sydney, whose forward pack is led by England prop Tom Burgess, while Parramatta host Brisbane on Friday before meeting Wests Tigers in Benji Marshall’s farewell appearance for the club.

Round 19 commences with the Rabbitohs taking on the last placed Canterbury Bulldogs, with Burgess going head-to-head with England front-row partner Luke Thompson as Souths attempt to keep their top four aspirations alive.

NRL ladder leaders Penrith travel to North Queensland on Friday, while second-placed Melbourne Storm host the Tigers on the Sunshine Coast on Saturday.

With the Tigers falling short against Souths and Cronulla edging out the Warriors last weekend, the top eight has been decided but Newcastle will be aiming to finish higher than seventh by beating the Dragons on Sunday and Gold Coast Titans in their final match.

The Titans take on Manly on Saturday in a match with no bearing on places in the top eight.