Raiders NRL finals hopes rest on rookie

He's the rookie charged with dragging an ailing Canberra back into the NRL finals mix.

Young gun Anthony Milford has been thrust into five-eighth by interim coach Andrew Dunemann for Sunday's do-or-die home clash against Manly following an injury to captain Terry Campese two weeks ago.

Sam Williams got first crack at the vacant playmaker role last weekend before head coach David Furner unexpectedly got the sack on Tuesday.

However with a new coach comes new direction and Dunemann has explicitly stated he wants more of the ball in the hands of the exciting 19-year-old.

It's a bold move from the interim coach, as Milford has spent the majority of his debut NRL season at fullback.

He's also looking to leave the club next year to be closer to family in Brisbane.

However Dunemann rates Milford highly as the two worked together to guide the Raiders under-20 team to last year's grand final.

Milford's got an equally big fan in the skipper he's covering.

"He's going to be one of the players of the future and definitely an Origin player," Campese said.

"Everyday out here on the training paddock I'm in awe of what he can do."

Dunemann's other change is the promotion of ex-Warriors winger Bill Tupou to centre for injured players Blake Ferguson and Jack Wighton.

It's not only Tupou's first NRL game for the Raiders since joining in June, but his first at centre - and up against Kiwi international Steve Matai, no less.

Tupou will play on the right edge alongside recalled Raiders winger Sami Sauiluma, with Reece Robinson dropping to fullback.

At kick-off the Raiders could be as low as 12th on the ladder.

However co-captain Brett White is confident his side will get up to overcome a tumultuous week, as well as three straight losses, to keep their slim finals hopes alive.

"It's a massive ask," White said.

"But this is a tremendous side and has been for a long time."

Despite all of the Raiders' troubles, Manly are extremely wary following the Cowboys' bounce in form since sacking coach Neil Henry last month.

"It can probably go two ways," lock forward Glenn Stewart said.

"They can get right up for the game, or maybe they are not interested - and we are not preparing for that."

The fourth-placed Sea Eagles have a couple of their own injury concerns, with representative players Brett Stewart (hamstring) and Brent Kite in doubt for the Canberra Stadium clash.

But with the Sharks and Bulldogs still breathing down their necks, they'll be extremely hungry for a win to all but lock down a top four finals spot.

AAP
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