Sports

Bennett knows first hand what Whitehead will produce

Brisbane Broncos coach Wayne Bennett knows exactly what to expect from Elliott Whitehead after his man-of-the-match performance in Denver.

But Canberra Raiders captain knew what the England workhorse would produce and was confident it would be more of the same for their season-defining game against the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.

The Raiders have had some good and bad injury news ahead of their trip north, with Junior Paulo (foot) set for a possible return, while lock Luke Bateman (knee) will miss the next four weeks after surgery.

Broncos coach Wayne Benneyy knows first hand what to expect from Elliott Whitehead.

Photo: AP

While most of the Raiders returned from representative duties unscathed, five-eighth Ata Hingano (ankle) has also been ruled out for the rest of the season and will have surgery next week.

Whitehead scored two tries and set up another as he helped England to a 36-18 victory over New Zealand at Denver's Mile High Stadium on Sunday.

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He was already back at Raiders HQ on Monday morning and will travel up with the Green Machine for their four-day camp on the Gold Coast.

England coach Bennett had one of the best seat's in Denver to watch Whitehead's display, which came just days before he'll take on Bennett's Broncos in a crunch game.

Canberra needs to win to keep their finals hopes alive.

"We know we'll get that [from Whitehead]. The way Elliott played for England on the weekend was the amount of effort and how much he puts in for us every week," Croker said.

"No one was surprised to see him get man of the match that's for sure. He had a blinder over there and to see him back here this morning just proves that he's back and healthy and ready to go again."

The Raiders are two wins behind the eighth-placed Broncos and a loss could end their chances of making the top eight.

But they travel to Brisbane with a poor record both against the Broncos and at Suncorp Stadium.

They've lost their last five games against Bennett's side and have only beaten them once at Suncorp since 2004.

The magnitude of the clash wasn't lost on Croker, especially given they play seven of the top-eight teams in the run home.

"It's a massive game for us. We haven't spoken about it too much yet, but we'll build up to it this week," he said.

"We know how important the game is for us. There's a four-point gap there between us and Brisbane and the top eight so we can't let that slide and slip away any further.

"We haven't had a great record up there so it's going to be a tough ask, it always is going to Brisbane. We have plenty of confidence out of the last couple of weeks and we'll build up to towards this weekend.

"It's a tough run home … if we make the finals then we've beaten the good sides and we'll be one of the good sides. That's the way we've got to look at it."

Part of that is because the Broncos are normally one of the best teams in the competition.

They've only missed the finals twice since 1992.

But Croker said they'd go there "quite confident" after their recent form and would also be boosted by their drought-breaking win over North Queensland in round eight.

The Raiders hadn't beaten the Cowboys in Townsville since 2006 until their 18-8 victory.

"You don't look too far into records and all that sort of stuff. We hadn't won at Townsville [in a while], I'd never won there, the fact that we went up there and the way that we won the game was very satisfying," Croker said.

"We definitely take a bit of confidence out of that, winning away, and hopefully it's the same result on Saturday."

NRL ROUND 16

Saturday: Canberra Raiders v Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium, 7.35pm. Live on Fox League.

David Polkinghorne

David Polkinghorne covers the Canberra Raiders, local rugby league, Canberra Cavalry, racing and cycling, along with every other sport, for The Canberra Times.

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