The Canberra Raiders will role the NRL tribunal dice as they look to clear Joe Tapine to play against the North Queensland Cowboys at Canberra Stadium on Saturday.
Tapine faced a two-game suspension for his grade one dangerous contact charge whether he took the early guilty plea or was found guilty at the tribunal, but would carry an extra 40 carryover points for the latter.
He was penalised for his lifting tackle on Canterbury hooker Michael Lichaa in the 26th minute of the Raiders' stunning 32-28 victory over the Bulldogs at Belmore on the weekend.
The Raiders will fight Joe Tapine’s two-game ban at the NRL tribunal.
Lichaa left the field for a head injury assessment, but returned to the field 11 minutes later.
Raiders captain Jarrod Croker said Tapine was an important player in their hopes of beating the Cowboys this weekend.
Croker teamed up with Project Rockit and Telstra Play Smart to give a talk on cyber safety at Raiders Belconnen on Monday.
"I haven't had a good look at it, but personally I didn't think there was a lot in it. But I'll have to have a good look at it," he said of Tapine's tackle.
"We need Taps there, he's been massive for us. I didn't expect to be missing him for two weeks so I think we'll fight that and hopefully we can get him off and get him right to go again this week."
On top of Tapine's potential suspension, the Raiders will be without prop Shannon Boyd (calf) for two or three weeks, while fullback Brad Abbey has been ruled out with concussion.
But they should welcome Queensland star Josh Papalii from State of Origin, while Jordan Rapana (hamstring) and Luke Bateman (knee) could also return.
Rapana's return could see young gun Nick Cotric switch to fullback with Michael Oldfield swapping wings.
They also have Blake Austin as an option for the No.1 jersey, while winger Mikaele Ravalawa is one of the leading try scorers in the NSW Cup.
Cotric filled in at fullback when Jack Wighton missed a game due to the birth of his second daughter earlier in the season.
The 19-year-old said having the whole week to prepare for a switch to fullback this time would definitely help.
"I'll play anywhere, I'm just happy to play … I had the one game there so I've just got a little bit to learn in that position because I haven't trained there much," Cotric said.
"That'll definitely help a lot just to know if you're going to play there or not so you can work on it at training, get a connection with the boys – [Aidan Sezer], Austy or Sammy [Williams] in the halves."
The Raiders have several options to cover the loss of Boyd and potentially Tapine as well.
Papalii or Sia Soliola could fill Tapine's spot in the second row, with the other playing in the middle either at prop or lock.
Bateman's potential early return from knee surgery is an option for the bench, while Charlie Gubb, Royce Hunt, Jack Murchie and Makahesi Makatoa could come into the 17.
Gubb's looking to finalise which English Super League club he'll move to in the next 48 hours, but he would still be available for selection to play the Cowboys.
The Raiders have agreed to release him from the last few months of his contract, with three clubs interested in him.
"To be able to get Bato back is a massive help. He's really good in the middle there with his line speed, he does a lot of work that no one notices, Bato, he's one of those sorts of players," Croker said.
"It'll be good to get him back and Rapa's Rapa. Any side would be happy to have him back in the team. Fingers crossed big Papa plays well on Wednesday and pulls up well for Saturday as well."
NRL ROUND 18
Saturday: Canberra Raiders v North Queensland Cowboys at Canberra Stadium, 7.35pm. Live on Fox League.
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