Dane Tilse backs Canberra Raiders to match Bulldogs' pack

Canberra prop Dane Tilse insists an understrength Raiders can match Canterbury's feared pack on Friday at Canberra Stadium, despite the absence of Josh Papalii, Paul Vaughan and Joel Edwards.

And he urged the team to use the club's 1994 premiership celebrations as motivation to lift and snap a four-game losing streak.

Papalii will miss at least the next two matches after aggravating an ankle injury that sidelined him earlier this season against Brisbane last week.

Vaughan will miss the game through a one-game suspension for a crusher tackle, while hard-hitting back-rower Edwards is considered only an outside chance to return from a fractured cheekbone.

Their absence couldn't come at a worse time before facing a Canterbury pack Tilse rates the NRL's benchmark.

"The rest of us are going to have to go up a gear with those blokes out, but I'm confident we can have a quality game against them and get a win,'' Tilse said. "We've still got some quality players who've played rep footy [props David Shillington and Brett White]. We're confident in our pack's ability.

"They've got a fair bit of strike power up the middle with big T-Rex [Tony Williams], Frank Pritchard, Sam Kasiano and James Graham, there's heaps of them.

"It's definitely a big challenge for us and we're looking forward to it.''

He said Canterbury's NSW halves Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds owe their forwards plenty of credit for making their Origin debuts this year.

"They've got some big bodies and play aggressively. The halves have probably made the Origin team on the back of their go forward,'' Tilse said. "I'd have to say so [they're the benchmark], them and Souths are starting to hit some form.''

The Raiders will commemorate their third and last premiership with a reunion at Canberra Stadium, attended by a host of legends who played in the 1994 decider.

"We all know what an awesome side that was, it's probably the main Raiders premiership I can remember being a young fella,'' Tilse said.

"Having those guys there is going to lift us and you want to put your best foot forward in front of them.''

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart is yet to decide on who will fill the void in his undermanned pack, but back-rower Jake Foster, utility Matt McIlwrick and prop Kyle O'Donnell are options.

Finals appear almost out of reach for the Raiders [4-9], whose plight was compounded when its quest to sign a number of players came to nought.

With quality talent on the open market now thin on the ground, Canberra is unlikely to sign anyone from rival clubs before the June 30 transfer deadline.

"The players we chased elected to stay at their own clubs and people were surprised and disappointed, but we have to move on,'' Stuart said. "These things happen, unfortunately nothing good comes quickly or easily.

"I have to be patient. You can't rush these decisions because of the result we just had.

"We targeted the correct player, now we have to keep our nerve.''

FRIDAY

NRL round 15: Canberra Raiders v Canterbury Bulldogs at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm

TV: WIN

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