Superhero Saturday comes to Allianz Stadium on Saturday night when Sydney Roosters host St George Illawarra Dragons. Both sides will run out in specially designed strips (Captain American for the Roosters and Iron Man for the Dragons) as they battle it out for crucial NRL Premiership points.
The Roosters need to build some momentum for the final month of the season after three defeats in their last four games left them outside of the top four going into round 21. With tough fixtures ahead they need to get points on the board this week to fend off the tightly bunched pack behind them. With the ladder as tight as it has ever been at this stage of a season the Roosters cannot afford any slip ups in the run in, or they could even miss finals football altogether.
The inconsistency displayed by the Roosters in 2014 has been a surprise to many, after being widely tipped to claim back to back Premierships. The form of key individuals like James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce has been a factor in their difficult campaign, but there is enough experience in their squad to find a way to win when it matters in the next few weeks.
Michael Jennings is back for the Roosters after suffering a back injury in game two of the State of Origin series. The return of Jennings is tempered by the loss of Sonny Bill Williams and Mitch Aubusson to thumb and ankle injuries respectively, while Daniel Tupou remains absent with his own back problem.
The Dragons are clearly a much improved side from the one that lost 33-14 against the Roosters on Anzac Day. They have certainly toughened up in the forward pack, with accusations of being too soft no longer thrown at them. Despite the perception that they have endured another poor season, the Dragons are actually only two points off fifth place.
Much was made of whether Benji Marshall would rediscover his old form and fire the Dragons to a late season charge to the finals. In fact, what has happened is that Marshall’s solid performances have given a platform for Gareth Widdop to launch into a run of devastating form. He was the key man in the victory over Wests Tigers last Sunday, and could well decide this game if the Roosters fail to close him down early.
Saturday 2nd August, Allianz Stadium 19:30