26th August 2020, 08:59 | nrl
Canberra’s English prop Ryan Sutton is preparing for another long stint against Canterbury this weekend after playing 52 minutes without a break in last Saturday’s defeat of Gold Coast Titans.
Sutton will start from the interchange against the Bulldogs but with Raiders coach Ricky Stuart calling up rookie centre Matt Timoko to make his NRL debut from the bench he will have one less forward in his rotation.
With Canberra guaranteed a finals berth, Stuart is trying to keep his middle forwards fresh and Josh Papalii, Dunamis Lui and Hudson Young will start this week in place of Sutton and Joseph Tapine, while Corey Harawira-Naera drops out of the side.
However, Sutton is ready to play long minutes from the bench after last weekend running a game high 205 metres with the ball in a 52-minute stint before being replaced early in the second half.
“That was good,” Sutton said. “Sticky [Stuart] said to me I was doing that and I knew that I could do that.
“Whatever Stick does and whoever he puts on the bench we are happy to comply. We have got that versatility where middles can play big minute and if he needs to that’s what he will do.
“At the same time if he comes to me and says I want you to play 20 minutes and blow out I will do that. Whatever the coach wants I will do.”
The Bulldogs will be aiming for a win on Sunday to climb off the bottom of the NRL ladder but they will have to do it without England Test prop Luke Thompson after he was rested following seven consecutive matches since completing a 14-day quarantine upon his arrival in Australia.
The decision denies Sutton and Canberra’s fellow English stars John Bateman, George Williams and Elliott Whitehead the opportunity to play against Thompson for the first time in the NRL.
“He’s been a real boost of energy for them,” Sutton said. “I played against him in Super League and coming through the system. He is a great player and he is a great fellow as well. He has been a great asset for the Dogs.”
Bateman is returning to Wigan so is unlikely to get another opportunity to play against Thompson but Raiders recruitment manager Peter Mulholland revealed earlier this week that the club would consider an offer to keep Whitehead in Canberra after his current deal expires in 2022.
Mulholland, who coached Paris Saint-Germain in the 1997 Super League competition, said the Raiders were keen to re-sign 34-year-old former St Helens prop Sia Soliloa for another season and were not concerned that Whitehead was celebrating his 31st birthday next month.
“We are looking at talking to Sia about another year. It is just a year-by-year proposition,” Mulholland said. “We will certainly look at Elliott Whitehead when he is up and see how he is going.”
Round 16 commences on Thursday with Parramatta looking to maintain their hopes of claiming the minor premiership by beating Tom Burgess’s South Sydney, who are just two points behind fourth-placed Sydney Roosters after last weekend’s 56-16 defeat of Manly.
The Roosters host Brisbane on Friday, with former Hull FC coach Peter Gentle now in charge of the Broncos for the rest of the season following the departure of Anthony Seibold.
Gold Coast ensured former St Helens premiership winning mentor Justin Holbrook doesn’t become a target for Brisbane, North Queensland or St George Illawarra by tying him down until 2024 ahead of Friday’s clash with the Dragons.
The New Zealand Warriors play Newcastle on Saturday, ahead of the clash between Cronulla and North Queensland and the western Sydney derby between competition leaders Penrith and Michael Maguire’s Wests Tigers.
Melbourne Storm will be looking to bounce back from last week’s loss to Parramatta when they meet Manly on Sunday and have been boosted by the return from injury of captain Cameron Smith, Cameron Munster and Jahrome Hughes as well as suspended prop Jesse Bromwich.