Josh Papali'i's return to an already-stacked Canberra pack has coach Ricky Stuart looking to his middle to carry the Raiders forward.
The Samoa and Queensland prop will join star teammate Joe Tapine in the front row when Canberra travel to Newcastle on Sunday afternoon in pursuit of their second straight win.
With a loaded bench including three more in-form props - Pasami Saulo, Emre Guler and Corey Horsburgh - the Raiders will look to power through a battered Knights pack missing Adam Elliott and Jacob Saifiti.
That pair could even be joined on the sidelines by Daniel Saifiti and Tyson Frizell, both under injury clouds despite being named in the Knights' squad.
With more than half the tries Canberra have conceded this season coming off kicks or handling errors, Stuart said the defensive record showed his middles were firing.
"They've provided a lot of go-forward and a lot of good, strong defence in the middle too," he said.
"They were a very good attacking team last week and we controlled them really well.
"You've got to start from the middle ... the middle obviously helps your edges so much in defence.
"It's not only the defence ... it's the big metres they're gaining and also the hard work defensively."
All eyes will be on Papali'i's calf against the Knights, having initially tweaked it warming up for a trial game on a hot day in Belmore before re-injuring it training less than a week later.
Papali'i, 30, is coming off a marathon 2022 where he played 25 NRL games, along with three State of Origin matches for Queensland and another six at the World Cup with Samoa.
"He provides a lot of energy, just around the day-to-day training," Stuart said.
"The environment is always upbeat when we know Josh is playing with us and he gives players confidence when he crosses the line, and gives coaches confidence.
"I love coaching Josh and it's great to have him back."
Australian Associated Press
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