Raiders' NRL season reaches tipping point

Canberra's Josh Papalii says Friday's clash against St George Illawarra has added importance.
Canberra's Josh Papalii says Friday's clash against St George Illawarra has added importance.

After a painful loss to Newcastle dented their top-eight hopes, Canberra prop Josh Papali'i says Friday's clash with St George Illawarra is crucial to their chances.

The Raiders have a difficult run-in to the finals with top-eight opponents Melbourne and Manly to follow the Dragons, while the Warriors and Roosters lie in wait thereafter to finish the calendar year.

Papali'i said they had planned for their late-season push to continue against Newcastle after riding a three-game winning streak, but their confidence took a hit in the 34-24 loss.

"I thought that was a good opportunity for us as a team to put ourselves in the eight and that wasn't the case," he said on Tuesday.

"We're going to have to work pretty hard for the last five games starting Friday.

"These two points are very crucial, I believe there's five or six teams sitting on the same amount of points and our for and against is not the best."

Joining the Raiders and Dragons in the hunt for a finals spot are Gold Coast, Cronulla and Newcastle, who are all tied on 18 competition points.

With the Raiders and Dragons in ninth and 10th on the ladder, Papali'i says a setback for either team could be pivotal and their opponents won't be helped by the season-ending arm fracture to Origin teammate Ben Hunt.

"He's a massive loss for the Dragons, he's definitely been their best player by far," Papali'i said.

"He's their halfback and their captain and that takes a lot of leadership and control away from their game.

"Hopefully we can get stuck into whoever's in the role and make it a tough game for them."

Australian Associated Press