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NRL bye a relief for struggling Raiders

·2-min read

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart says time away during last week's bye is exactly what his struggling NRL team needed to reignite their 2021 campaign.

The Raiders have endured a horror first-half to the season with off-field drama combining with just four wins from 12 matches on the field.

Stuart however has noticed a change in mood following the bye that has him believing of better times ahead starting with Saturday's visit by fellow strugglers Brisbane.

"Well, I can only judge on how they've returned and they've been great," Stuart said.

"We've had some struggles but the camaraderie, the mateship amongst the players is pulling them through this.

"They all bounced back into work this week and had a lot of energy and I could see that from a mental point of view, it's been a real good freshen up for them."

Adding to Stuart's optimism he will have influential front-rower Josh Papalii back after a three-match suspension while Joseph Tapine returns from a knee injury on the interchange bench.

Jack Wighton has also rejoined the team full of confidence after being a part of NSW's huge State of Origin win on Wednesday in Townsville.

"I think it was a good mental break for Jack, moving away from a pretty stressful period here to go in and freshen up with a new bunch of teammates, playing the pinnacle of rugby league in Origin," Stuart said.

"Talking to him last night he sounded really positive and upbeat. Hopefully the Origin camp has done a treat for him."

Brisbane, who were hammered by St George Illawarra last weekend, have suffered a late setback with halfback Albert Kelly breaking down in training on Friday with a hamstring issue.

Coach Kevin Walters, who confirmed Origin pair Payne Haas and Xavier Coates would back up for the struggling Broncos, said it looked unlikely Kelly would be fit to play the Raiders.

The situation has left the Broncos scrambling to get clearance to bring Tyson Gamble into the squad with Anthony Milford and Brodie Croft both sidelined with knee injuries.

If cleared, Gamble will form a new-look halves pairing with Karmichael Hunt, who is set to play his first NRL match since 2009 at five-eighth.

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