CLINICAL STORM HOLD THE ACES
CANBERRA’S FAIRYTALE SEASON HAS carried them to their first grand final qualifier since 1997 in Super League but if they are to progress to ANZ Stadium next Sunday they must overcome a ruthlessly efficient Storm outfit which is steered around the paddock by two of the finest players of the modern era in Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk. Two masters of their trade who dissect an opposition through a combination of superb kicking, pinpoint passing and game management of the highest order. With a week off under their belt, the minor premiers head into this contest as red-hot favourites, and a trip to their first grand final since 2012 is only 80 minutes of controlled and clinical footy away. Standing in the way, however, is a team which has stunned the NRL in 2016 with a mix of backline brilliance and brute force — and the ability to play the sort of instinctive footy which can throw the Storm right off kilter. What the Raiders can’t do is get so carried away by the freakish offloads and trick shots that they forget to get the basics right. If they try to make the magic happen before they’ve done the hard yards up the middle and proved to Jesse Bromwich, Jordan McLean, Kevin Proctor and Dale Finucane that they’re worthy of their respect then it could all go pear shaped for Ricky’s Raiders. If they go set for set early and give Josh Hodgson the time and space he needs to dictate terms in his battle with Smith then the underdogs have a real shot at an upset. When these sides met in Canberra only six weeks ago, it was the Raiders who made a massive statement with a 22-8 win inspired by Joey Leilua, the barnstorming centre who will again be the Green Machine’s go-to man. Leilua scored a try after just 48 seconds that night as Canberra showed the sort of unpredictability and flair which makes them such a dangerous opponent. No doubt the Raiders will be daring again but they have to get down and dirty as well if they’re to have any hope of derailing Cronk and Smith’s methodical Storm machine.