Stuart sticking with status quo for Raiders' Eels clash

Coach Ricky Stuart says he resisted the urge to make mass team changes after Canberra's NRL capitulation against Cronulla because their second-grade performance was “just as bad”.

Instead of overhauling a line-up that threw away an 18-0 lead in an error-riddled display at Shark Park, Stuart opted for just one forced change ahead of Sunday's home clash with Parramatta to give his side a chance to prove it was an atypical performance.

In-form second-rower Zac Hosking (head knock) is the only exclusion, with former Newcastle talent Simi Sasagi named on the bench in his place.

Stuart, who warned post-game the Sharks performance would be “dealt with”, said the club’s NSW Cup players had been “poor across the board” and blew their chance for a promotion.

The NSW Cup Raiders trailed 16-0 against Newtown at Henson Park before storming back to lead 28-16, only to cough up that advantage and settle for a 28-28 draw.

“There would have been more changes made if second grade had have been better,” Stuart said.

“The players that were in NSW Cup last week were as bad as first grade.

“Nobody was pushing each other last week, which is unfortunate … they were out-enthused as well.”

It leaves the Raiders looking within to respond to their lamentable performance, set to face an Eels outfit stinging from a 17-16 loss to the Wests Tigers.

Canberra started the season with consecutive wins, but risk slipping to 2-3 with a third straight loss against the Eels.

“Our first three weeks, winning two out of the first three, I was really happy with the style of football we were playing,” Stuart said.

“But let's just hope that was one of those games last week that we weren't proud of and we've got to forget that now and get back to where we were.”

One positive for the Raiders was a one-year contract extension for strike centre Matt Timoko, who’s now tied to the club to the end of 2026.

Stuart also confirmed the club had started negotiating an extension with teenage five-eighth Ethan Strange, who’s impressed in the first month of the season.

“That's our plan, to develop our youth and then bring them into first grade to be long-term first-graders,” he said.

“That's our job here, we're not so much of a big recruitment focus, we're a development club.

“You've only got to have a look at the internationals and the Origin players that we've created out of the youth development program.”

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