RAIDERS RIPE FOR FIERCE RIVALS
WILL DRAGONS ARREST PALMERSTON’S PURPLE PATCH OF FORM IN PRELIM?
PALMERSTON has hit a rich vein of form in recent weeks, but knows it will be up against it when it faces Nightcliff in the NRL NT preliminary final.
The Raiders put themselves in with a shot of competing in the grand final after beating reigning premiers Darwin Brothers 36-16 in the minor semi-final.
But first, all the focus is on the preliminary final and a Nightcliff Dragons side that poses a massive threat to Palmerston’s title ambitions.
Palmerston coach Merg Mikaelian was proud of his side’s efforts but insisted all eyes were on their upcoming bout against Nightcliff.
“It was a good result. We worked well to our structure and game plan against Brothers and came away with the result,” Mikaelian said. “We were a little rusty but everyone would have been on the weekend after not having touched a footy in the previous week.
“We set the tone with our defence and showed some real desperation in our goalline defence, and from there our plan was the same as normal – through the middle with our big forwards.”
Facing the Raiders is a Dragons side ready to bounce back following the 32-20 loss to Sharks in the major semi-final.
All three of the games between the two sides this season have been tough, tight affairs, with Palmerston winning the most recent 22-12 while down to 11 men in the closing 10 minutes.
Minor premiers Nightcliff have plenty of options in attack and defence with Robbie Butcher and Brent Crisp ready to direct traffic, while Tim Muhammad has also been in strong form.
Palmerston, however, has plenty of firepower of its own with Blake Fletcher showing plenty of skill and leadership in the halves.
Outside him, Joel Turaga and Matthew Johnson have lit up the field week after week with their game-changing runs off the back of the hard work of the Raiders’ forward pack.
“We’re focused on Nightcliff, we need to be on our game against them as each of our games against them have been tough,” Mikaelian said.
“This game will be no different. They’re a quality side and will be up and about wanting to bounce back following their semi-final loss.
The winner will face Northern Sharks on September 11.
Meanwhile, in the women’s competition it’s Sharks against Palmerston in the preliminary final, both gunning for an opportunity to face Sistaz in the grand final.
Sharks have plenty to make up for after a big 44-0 loss to Sistaz in the semis, but still have plenty of strength in their ranks, including Crystal Browne.