35 Years - 35 Great Games

Canberra Raiders history

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Re: 35 Years - 35 Great Games

Post by zim »

What a game that was!
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Re: 35 Years - 35 Great Games

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2010 - Late surge not quite enough

2010 started much like 2009 for the Canberra Raiders. Up until Round 18, Canberra had won just five matches. The Raiders were 13th on the competition ladder and had lost four straight matches. But in Round 18, Canberra came from behind at Brookvale Oval, to win narrowly over the Manly Sea Eagles, 24-22. It was the start of a late surge, led by Terry Campese, which ended in finals football. Campese demonstrated in 2008 that he could play at elite standard - and he replicated his 2008 purple patch of form at the back end of 2010. Canberra won nine of the last 10 matches - and lost only to the illegally assembled Melbourne Storm, a team playing for no competition points after massive salary cap cheating was revealed.

Ultimately, the Raiders were knocked out in Week 2 of the finals, a narrow two point loss in front of a sell out crowd at Canberra Stadium of 26,476. Sadly, Jarrod Croker had an opportunity to level the match with three minutes remaining, but his shot from an awkward position on the field missed - and the Tigers won 26-24. Terry Campese was lost to a serious knee injury, midway through the second half. Even if Canberra had been able to progress, to win a Preliminary Final against the Dragons would have been too big a hurdle without the Raiders' talisman. Unfortunately the injury meant Campese was never the same player again.



There were a number of remarkable victories along the way. The Raiders smashed the Knights 52-18, a match which featured a try from a David Shillington bomb! There were seven tries in the first half, and the Raiders led 40-0 at half time. It was also a smash up against the Cowboys, Alan Tongue's 200th game. It was a 48-4 win in front of a crowd full of red wigs. Reece Robinson scored four tries.



In the final round of the regular season, the Raiders visited Lang Park to face a Broncos outfit that needed to win by 15 points or more - or miss the finals for the first time since 1991. The Raiders needed to win to keep the momentum into the finals. It was semi final football a week early in front of 40,000 at Lang Park. There were Raiders fans everywhere, and were packed solid in the supporters bay in the corner. The Raiders seemed destined for a win when Daniel Vidot scored. But then the Broncos came back in the last 20 minutes, scoring two tries. Still, the Raiders showed desperation and hung on for a sweet 18-16 win.



Week 1 of the finals saw the Raiders travel to Penrith and a huge contingent of Raiders fans congregated in the corner of the ground and behind the posts. Terry Campese scored after just five minutes, and at half time, the Raiders led 18-12. When Reece Robinson scored in the 42nd minute off a Dugan pass, Canberra went to what looked like a comfortable 12 point lead over the Panthers. The opposition put on a huge comeback, but the Raiders held on in a thrilling finish, 24-22. When the Raiders went to the corner after the match, the fans surged and the fence could not contain them. It was six wins in a row, something no other team had done all season.



The best performance of 2010, however, was the Round 24 clash with the Dragons - the eventual Grand Final winners. Canberra had beaten St George Illawarra earlier in the season, but the Dragons were placed first. The Raiders were still outside the top eight.



The Dragons put on a show of their typical impenetrable defence in the first half, but they led by just 4-0 at half time. But the Raiders blew the match apart in the second half. It started with a Daniel Vidot try eight minutes after the break. Terry Campese quickly took control, scoring under the posts. "He's invented a new grubber kick... it's like a grubber, chip kick!" commentator Gary Belcher marvelled. Adam Mogg followed up.

Then Canberra scored two classic tries. Josh Dugan diffused a dangerous Jamie Soward chip kick, bumped out of a Neville Costigan tackle, and just emerged out the other side of a group of Dragons defenders. He ran 80 metres to score under the posts. Shortly after, Jarrod Croker made a break wide out, 80 metres from the line. He flew and Joe Picker was backing up on the inside. He pushed Jamie Soward to one side with ease and scored in the corner. Terry Campese swarmed in, taking Picker to the fence to the arms of the fans. It was five tries in 12 minutes. The commentary was ecstatic: "The Green Machine is rolling again! The glory days are back here in Canberra!"

It was an inspirational 32-16 win over the premiership favourites. The Raiders had posted 11 wins in their past 12 matches against the Dragons, leaving St George Illawarra without a win at Canberra Stadium since 2000. It is no wonder many Raiders fans still ask themselves about the 2010 season: "What if?"

2010 Round 24 - Canberra Raiders 32 (Glen Buttriss, Terry Campese, Josh Dugan, Adam Mogg, Joe Picker, Daniel Vidot tries, Jarrod Croker 4 goals) defeated St George Illawarra Dragons 16

Canberra Raiders: 1. Josh Dugan 2. Joel Monaghan 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Adam Mogg 5. Daniel Vidot 6. Terry Campese 7. Josh McCrone 8. Tom Learoyd Lahrs 9. Alan Tongue 10. David Shillington 11. Joe Picker 12. Bronson Harrison 13. Trevor Thurling

14. Glen Buttriss 16. Dane Tilse 17. Scott Logan 18. Shaun Fensom

Coach David Furner
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Re: 35 Years - 35 Great Games

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2011 - Bubble burst

The Raiders' 2010 bubble burst, hard, in 2011. Terry Campese ended up missing the entire season, save for one interchange appearance against the North Queensland Cowboys in Round 13. The ACL injury Campese suffered in the 2010 finals loss to the Wests Tigers kept him sidelined for the first half of the 2011 season. Then just eight minutes into his return, he suffered a season ending injury, a torn adductor muscle requiring surgery.

The Raiders recruited Matt Orford, who was playing in the English Super League - but he suffered an injury riddled season and made just six appearances. He was horribly out of form in the matches he did play, a shadow of the player he was with the Sea Eagles and the Storm. Canberra lost every match in which he appeared. He orchestrated what is possibly the worst loss ever in Raiders history - the golden point loss to Gold Coast Titans, which was essentially wrapped up, save for an Orford knock on in the dying moments at the base of a Raiders scrum win. A Titans try saw them level after the siren and they went on to win in extra time.

Canberra produced a stylish win in Round 1 over the Sharks at home - with Sam Williams making an immediate impact on debut in a 40-12 victory. The Raiders then went on a record equalling losing streak, eight losses in a row. The only other time that had happened was in 1986. The season finished with six losses in a row, as well, including the farewell matches for Alan Tongue. There were just six wins during the season, and Canberra just barely avoided the wooden spoon - points differential separating the Raiders from the Titans.

As awful as the season was, there were some high points. The Raiders went to Melbourne to face the Storm in Round 10 - having not won in the Victorian capital since 2000. Winger Reece Robinson scored after four minutes and that was followed by a Josh McCrone try shortly after. As always, the Storm fought back, with tries before and after half time allowing them to draw level 12-12. But a Jarrod Croker penalty goal gave the Raiders a two point advantage, and seven minutes from full time, an amazing try to Blake Ferguson secured an upset 20-12 win. It ended that record losing streak.



The best win of the season came, again, over the St George Illawarra Dragons. The Dragons visited Canberra Stadium, winless in the national capital since 2000, in Round 20. The Dragons led 18-6 at half time, and Jamie Soward surely thought he had won his team the match when he landed a 40 metre field goal with just a minute left - giving the Dragons a 19-18 lead. But the hoodoo was still to play its part.

Canberra regained the ball from the kick off and Josh Dugan scored an incredible last ditch try, chasing a Josh McCrone kick. The moment will live on through the classic call: "Do you believe in hoodoos? Do you believe in miracles?!" It gave Canberra the 24-19 victory.

"Duges called for the ball. All credit goes to him," Josh McCrone said after the match. "We'd seen Ben Creagh rush up outside, we thought there was an opportunity, we had the numbers on them, he shouted for it, I kicked it, he flew through and put it down. As soon as he got there I knew it was down."



"To be 18-6 down at halftime, and then get back in the arm-wrestle and keep them to one point in the second half... They are one of the best attacking teams, and one of the best defensive teams, so to score three tries in the second half to their none, it was a great feeling," Josh Dugan said later.

"As soon as Jamie kicked his field goal, I knew it was going over. I ran to the ball boy on the sideline and grabbed the ball so we could kick off. I saw a bit of space behind, Josh's first couple of kicks in the first half went a bit long, but he was pin-pointing them in the second half and that's when they counted."

2011 Round 20 - Canberra Raiders 24 (Josh Dugan 2, Blake Ferguson, Josh McCrone tries, Jarrod Croker 4 goals) defeated St George Illawarra Dragons 19 (Matt Cooper, Ben Creagh, Mark Gasnier, Brett Morris tries, Jamie Soward 1 goal, 1 field goal) at Canberra Stadium

Canberra Raiders: 1. Josh Dugan 2. Blake Ferguson 19. Jarrod Croker 4. Joel Thompson 5. Daniel Vidot 6. Josh McCrone 7. Sam Williams 8. Brett White 9. Alan Tongue 10. Dane Tilse 18. Josh Papalii 12. Bronson Harrison 13. Shaun Fensom

3. Danny Galea 14. Glen Buttriss 16. Trevor Thurling 17. Sam Mataora

Coach David Furner

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Re: 35 Years - 35 Great Games

Post by edwahu »

Thanks for this series GE, it really is outstanding. I know the club has an official historian but you must qualify as the unofficial one by now.
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Re: 35 Years - 35 Great Games

Post by greeneyed »

Thanks, it's been enjoyable doing it. Hopefully I will get around to finishing The Story of the Green Machine at some stage!
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Re: 35 Years - 35 Great Games

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Awesome stuff GE, you should write a book about the club.


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Re: 35 Years - 35 Great Games

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2012 - Another late finals run

Since 2005, the Canberra Raiders had been stuck in a boom-bust cycle - making the finals in one year, bombing out the next. For much of 2012, it looked like the Raiders would miss the finals in successive years, the first time that had happened since 1986.

Canberra captain Terry Campese again played little part in the campaign, making just seven appearances. He suffered another season ending injury in the loss to the Broncos in Round 7 at Lang Park. Jack Wighton made an impressive debut in Round 2 against the Titans, but did not play in the regular season after Round 10 due to a trampoline accident. Brett White was sidelined for the rest of the year after Round 5.

The team was in crisis in the middle of the season. In Round 13, the Raiders were defeated at home by the Wests Tigers, 40-0. At the time it was the club's worst defeat at Canberra Stadium and the second biggest defeat at home. Canberra fell to 15th on the ladder. Speculation mounted that Ricky Stuart would take over as coach, once his State of Origin commitments had concluded. Reports floated around that Furner would call a press conference to stand down on the Monday following the Tigers defeat. Instead, Furner called a press conference to announce he was taking the team into a camp for the week on the Central Coast - prior to the match against the Knights in Newcastle. Remarkably, Canberra defeated Newcastle 32-16.

Canberra went on to win nine of the last 12 matches of the regular season, finishing in sixth place. It was an amazing turnaround. Part of the winning formula was taking the team into camp for both home and away matches. The away form had been better than home form - so prior to the Canberra Stadium clash with the Brisbane Broncos, the team spent the night prior to the game at a hotel at Eaglehawk, a truck stop on the Federal Highway just outside of Canberra. The Raiders won 28-12, and the team stuck with that preparation for the rest of the season.

There were some great wins in the surge to the finals. In Round 18, the Raiders visited Melbourne to take on the Storm. Melbourne was missing Cameron Smith, who was rested after Origin III, and an injured Billy Slater. But Canberra dominated, running out 40-12 winners over the eventual premiers. Edrick Lee scored a hat trick and Sandor Earl, who was playing just his second match with the Raiders, scored a double. The Raiders led 20-6 after 30 minutes, and 20-12 at half time. But Canberra went on to crush any hope the Storm had of a comeback in the second half. It was the first time Canberra had produced back to back wins in over a year.

In Round 25, the Raiders ended the Canterbury Bulldogs' 12 game winning streak at Canberra Stadium - with a 34-6 thrashing. The Bulldogs had rested Michael Ennis from the match - as they had virtually secured their minor premiership. But Canberra was simply more enthusiastic and more determined to win. The Raiders led 24-6 at half time, and then kept the Bulldogs scoreless in the second half. Sandor Earl scored a hat trick, Reece Robinson a brace of tries. The win over the eventual grand finalists put Canberra into the top eight for the first time since the middle of April.

The best match of Canberra's season took place in the first week of the finals - an elimination finals match against the Cronulla Sharks. It was a perfect, blue skied afternoon. Canberra Stadium was sold out, a sea of green. And the Raiders put on a spectacle for the crowd of 24,450 - playing breath taking, attacking football. The Sharks were the first to score, after six minutes. But then Canberra turned it on.



In the 19th minute, Josh McCrone set up a try for Sandor Earl in the corner. Then just minutes later, Canberra scored a try for the ages. Sam Williams made a break down the left side, before passing to a flying Jarrod Croker. The Sharks circled him, but he was able to put in a kick to the corner for Sandor Earl. It was perfection, falling into the hands of the winger, to score his second try. "Stop it, it's starting to hurt!" came the classic commentary from Ray Warren. "Rugby league! Rugby league!" It was simply scintilating.

Another highlight was how Josh Papalii took on Paul Gallen. A memorable hit just before half time rocked the Sharks captain - and led to a war of words after the match. After the match, Gallen claimed: "I don't really care about Papalii. He hit me with a dog shot with a swinging arm and once in the back without the ball. Other than that, I don't think there was too much to it."

But Papalii had his measure and had got under Gallen's skin as well.

"'Pappa' was matched up on 'Gal' and Furner gave him a few words of encouragement to get it over him early in the game," David Shillington explained. "'Pappa' really stood up. He got under him a few times and Gal didn't handle it very well."

Canberra led 16-6 at half time, but the Sharks fought back. A Sharks try from a blatant forward pass in the 60th minute saw Canberra's lead cut to two points, 18-16. But then Canberra opened up again - scoring four magic tries in the final 15 minutes. The only down-side was that Jarrod Croker suffered a cheek bone fracture, after Jason Bukuya led with his knee in a tackle. The Raiders only scored three goals from eight attempts - with Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson missing four after Croker left the field. The Raiders could have put on 44 points.

Canberra would severely miss the season's top point scorer in Week 2 of the finals - and Canberra weren't able to handle the Rabbitohs at Stadium Australia, going down 38-16. Regardless, 2012 had been one hell of a ride for the Raiders fans.

2012 Finals Week 1 - Canberra Raiders 34 (Sandor Earl 2, Blake Ferguson 2, Glen Buttriss, Josh Papalii, Sam Williams tries, Jarrod Croker 3 goals) defeated Cronulla Sharks 16

Canberra Raiders: 1. Josh Dugan 2. Sandor Earl 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Blake Ferguson 5. Reece Robinson 6. Josh McCrone 7. Sam Williams 8. David Shillington 9. Glen Buttriss 10. Dane Tilse 11. Josh Papalii 12. Joel Thompson 13. Shaun Fensom

14. Shaun Berrigan 15. Joe Picker 16. Mark Nicholls 17. Tom Learoyd Lahrs

Coach David Furner
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Re: 35 Years - 35 Great Games

Post by -GD- »

Instead, Furner called a press conference to announce he was taking the team into a camp for the week on the Central Coast - prior to the match against the Knights in Newcastle
I forgot all about this, he was gone for all money.
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Re: 35 Years - 35 Great Games

Post by edwahu »

You have to give him some credit for that piece of coaching. It's amazing how south it went with that side a season later.
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Re: 35 Years - 35 Great Games

Post by -GD- »

edwahu wrote:You have to give him some credit for that piece of coaching. It's amazing how south it went with that side a season later.
Gee that's a fun thread to look at all these years later - http://bit.ly/2icVeQ4
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Re: 35 Years - 35 Great Games

Post by greeneyed »

-GD- wrote:
edwahu wrote:You have to give him some credit for that piece of coaching. It's amazing how south it went with that side a season later.
Gee that's a fun thread to look at all these years later - http://bit.ly/2icVeQ4
Yes, I had a read of some of that one, writing the story.
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Re: 35 Years - 35 Great Games

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2013 - What else could go wrong?

2013 was a disaster both on and off field for the Canberra Raiders. Before the season even started, as Canberra prepared to meet Melbourne in a trial in Geelong, a press conference was held in Canberra revealing the results of an Australian Crime Commission report into drugs and corruption in Australian sport. It was the so-called "blackest day in Australian sport". On February 12, it was revealed the Canberra Raiders were one of the clubs named in the ACC report - but, as it turned out, it had nothing to do with the practices at the club. Rather, it had to do with winger Sandor Earl's involvement with "sports scientist" Stephen Dank while at the Penrith Panthers. That ended with Earl's suspension by the NRL in late August for taking performance enhancing drugs.

The season proper started with Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson climbing on Dugan's roof with pineapple cruisers, taking selfies and refusing to go back to training. Dugan had put in a substandard performance in the Round 1 loss to the Penrith Panthers - and it appears to have led to irreconcilable differences with coach David Furner. Ferguson ended up going back to training, but Dugan did not play for the Raiders again. His contract was terminated by the board.

Blake Ferguson went on to be selected for the Blues in Orgin. But prior to going into camp for Origin II, he met up with Dugan and the night ended in a Cronulla bar and allegations of inappropriate behaviour from a female patron - and resulted in an indecent assault charge. The NRL suspended him and the Raiders continued to assist him - but towards the end of the season, he simply walked out on the club. At one stage, while missing in action, Ferguson bizarrely appeared with acting manager Anthony Mundine in a press conference- but did not speak, with Mundine doing all the talking. In early September, the Raiders had no choice but to terminate Ferguson's contract.

On the field, the Raiders bumped around the bottom half of the ladder or the edge of the eight. Indeed, after defeating the Dragons 22-18 in Wollongong in Round 20, Canberra was in seventh and still a chance of making the finals. However, in Round 21, the Raiders suffered their worst defeat in history - 68-4 - at the hands of the Storm. It was the biggest home defeat in the history of the whole competition. The worst since 1908. The Storm equalled their own record for the biggest win in their history. The Storm scored 12 tries. The Raiders didn't win another match in 2013 after that. They finished by losing the last six games of the season.

After the loss to the Bulldogs in Round 23, time had run out for coach David Furner. He was sacked by the Raiders board - the first coach to be sacked in the club's history. It was clear there was player unrest, with senior players giving feedback to a director that concerns raised previously about Furner's coaching style had not been addressed. Furner's brother Don, the Raiders CEO, had to drive to a camp at Bateman's Bay to break the news. Assistant Andrew Dunemann was appointed interim coach for the final three games, but he couldn't work any magic either. On September 11, it was announced Raiders' legendary half back, Ricky Stuart was coming home to take over the coaching reins.

To add to the turmoil, the year ended with Meninga Medallist, Anthony Milford signing with the Brisbane Broncos from 2015. Milford was seen as the most talented youngster at the club since Todd Carney - perhaps the player with the most potential in the history of the club. And despite being contracted for 2014, a "homesick" Milford claimed he would not be returning to the Raiders. It was the perfect end to a season from hell - and the start of another long contract saga.

Despite all the turmoil, there were some good performances in 2013 - including a huge 44-14 win over the Knights mid season and a good 20-15 comeback win against the Warriors. Three matches stood out.

The Canberra Raiders played their first home match in Round 3, after suffering two disheartening losses on the road. What better way to kick start a campaign than against the Raiders' traditional whipping boys, the Dragons? The Dragons hadn't won at Canberra Stadium in 13 years... could the hoodoo continue? Absolutely. It was secured with a brilliant try to Jarrod Croker, a stunning break and run from Reece Robinson, with Croker backing up for the four pointer. Final score 30-17 to the Green Machine. Even better, the Raiders continued the winning form against the Dragons in their second meeting of the season.

Canberra produced a wonderful comeback over the eventual premiers, the Sydney Roosters, in Round 5. The Roosters led 16-0 at half time - and were hoping to become the first team since 1919 to hold their opponents to nil three weeks in a row in this match at Canberra Stadium. But Edrick Lee scored in the corner five minutes into the second half, and it was quickly followed by another try to Sam Williams, narrowing the gap to 16-12. The Roosters kicked away with a try to Anthony Minichello - but Canberra still had something left to prove. Sandor Earl scored from a bomb, and with just four minutes left, a Jarrod Croker try levelled the scores. His conversion secured a 24-22 victory. "When you do the kicking as a kid, they're the moments you dream of. That's what dreams are made of," Croker said after the match.



The best win of the year for Canberra, however, came in Round 8. The Raiders went to Melbourne Park hoping to build on their improving record against the Storm on the road. A Blake Ferguson double had the Green Machine right in the match at half time (12-12). In the second half, the Raiders went to a 24-12 lead through a stunning try from Reece Robinson, when he ran straight past Billy Slater. And despite the Storm coming back, the Raiders held on to record a huge 24-20 upset. It broke the 2012 Premiers' 15 game winning streak.

2013 Round 8 - Canberra Raiders 24 (Blake Ferguson 2, Reece Robinson, Jack Wighton tries, Blake Ferguson 4 goals) defeated Melbourne Storm 20

Canberra Raiders: 1. Reece Robinson 2. Sandor Earl 3. Jack Wighton 4. Blake Ferguson 5. Edrick Lee 6. Terry Campese 7. Josh McCrone 8. Tom Learoyd Lahrs 20. Glen Buttriss 10. Brett White 11. Joel Edwards 15. Joe Picker 13. Shaun Fensom

12. Jake Foster 14. Anthony Milford 16. Dane Tilse 17. Paul Vaughan

Coach David Furner
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Re: 35 Years - 35 Great Games

Post by edwahu »

Definitely the worst year ever. It's crazy that they were 7th after round 20.
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Re: 35 Years - 35 Great Games

Post by zim »

Reece burning slater in that game always makes me smile.
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Re: 35 Years - 35 Great Games

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2014 - The start of a long haul back

New Canberra Raiders Ricky Stuart faced a huge job in rebuilding the club and its culture after the fractious 2013. He had no opportunity to affect the squad for 2014, and it was hard going in attempting to recruit players to the Raiders for 2015 and beyond.

He nearly secured James Tedesco and Kevin Proctor - Tedesco even signed a contract - but both players ended up back flipping on an agreement to join the Green Machine. Others like Josh Mansour, Michael Ennis and Junior Paulo could not be tempted. The Anthony Milford contract drama dragged on, with Stuart attempting to convince him he should do his own back flip. But the Broncos persuaded him to stick to his plan to move north in 2015.

Stuart eventually signed Storm winger Sisa Waqa, Wests Tigers utility Blake Austin, a little known hooker from England, Josh Hodgson, veteran forward Sia Soliola and former Raiders half Sam Williams for 2015. It was seen as a very modest list of recruits.

It looked grim on the field as well. Canberra spent most of the season amongst the bottom few teams on the ladder. In middle of the season, the Raiders won just two of 14 matches. Up until Round 24, the Raiders had won just five games. Even the Dragons hoodoo deserted the club. The one consolation for Raiders fans was that the team won the last three matches of the year, and showed some promise for 2015.

Strong performances were thin on the ground - but there were some good wins. In Round 4 the Raiders defeated the eventual premiers, the South Sydney Rabbitohs, at their own home ground. Canberra led 22-0 at half time and held on in the second half to run out 30-18 winners. Terry Campese and Anthony Milford starred for the Raiders, while Reece Robinson scored a double.

In Round 26, the Eels needed to defeat the Raiders at Canberra Stadium to secure a place in the top eight. The blue and gold army were also desperate for a double dose of "revenge" against former coach Ricky Stuart - after the Eels handed Canberra a defeat in Darwin a month earlier.

Raiders outside back Jeremy Hawkins went over in the corner in just the fifth minute - and just before the 20 minute mark, a Joel Edwards break set up hooker Glen Buttriss for a try under the posts. Canberra led 20-6 lead at half time - and tries to Paul Vaughan and Josh McCrone after the break gave Canberra a commanding lead. It was enough to withstand a comeback from Parramatta, led by Jarryd Hayne. In the end, a field goal to Anthony Milford sealed the 33-20 victory. It sent the retiring Brett White out a winner.

The best win of the season came in Round 7 over the Melbourne Storm at Canberra Stadium. After half an hour, the Raiders trailed 16-6, with the Storm putting on another professional performance. Just before half time, Canberra scored a brilliant try, desperately offloading on the last tackle and sending Reece Robinson over in the corner.

Canberra trailed by just four points at the break, but allowed Mahe Fonua in for a second try just three minutes into the second half. The Storm led 22-12 and it looked like the Storm would yet again be too good. But Canberra fought back. A try to Reece Robinson saw Canberra trail 22-18 - before great tackles by Josh Papalii and Jarrod Croker twice denied tries to Storm winger Sisa Waqa. Papalii somehow managed to hold Waqa up in the in goal, while a desperate Croker just managed to push Waqa into touch.

The Raiders trailed for the entire match, but a brilliant stepping run from prop Paul Vaughan saw him score under the posts in the final minutes - and Croker's conversion gave the Green Machine the exciting two point win. It was a brilliant effort from a big man.

After the match, Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy was upset with the video refereeing, specifically the decision which ruled Croker had stopped Sisa Waqa from scoring. But Paul Vaughan was having none of that.

"He's a freak, he's unbelievable,'' Vaughan said of Croker. "He's been playing unreal this year and I don't think he's far off rep duties. That try that he saved on [Sisa] Waqa at the end, that was something else. That gave us a lot of confidence to think we could still win it."

2014 Round 7 - Canberra Raiders 24 (Reece Robinson 2, Matthew Allwood, Paul Vaughan tries, Jarrod Croker 4 goals) defeated Melbourne Storm 22

Canberra Raiders: 1. Anthony Milford 2. Reece Robinson 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Matthew Allwood 5. Bill Tupou 6. Jack Wighton 7. Terry Campese 8. David Shillington 9. Glen Buttriss 10. Brett White 11. Josh Papalii 12. Joel Edwards 13. Shaun Fensom

14. Josh McCrone 15. Paul Vaughan 16. Dane Tilse 17. Shannon Boyd

Coach Ricky Stuart
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Re: 35 Years - 35 Great Games

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2015 - Finals missed three seasons in a row

Season 2015 was the third in a row that the Canberra Raiders missed the finals. Incredibly, it was the first time in the club's history that it had happened - provided you count the playoff in 1984 as a shot at the finals. The winning record at home was also the worst in history, with the Raiders winning just three of 12 clashes. Even in the club's inaugural season, with a team full of park players, the Raiders won four home games.

But nevertheless, there were some signs that the club was on the right path. The Raiders climbed the ladder to tenth place and finished just two wins out of the top eight. There were five losses of two points or less, and six of four points or less. Another loss, to the Bulldogs, was a last minute seven point loss. It was seven games, fourteen competition points, that could have gone the other way. Five more wins was a top four finish. The missing ingredients were game management and consistency, the level heads and experience needed to win the tight contests.

The attack progressed significantly. For much of the season, Canberra had the best attack in the league. In the end, the Raiders finished third on the highest point scoring list, behind the Roosters and eventual premiers, the Cowboys. They outscored the other grand finalist, the Broncos. But only four teams conceded more points than the Raiders. Despite that, the Raiders finished with a positive points differential. Two teams in the top eight, the Rabbitohs and Sharks, did not.

Some of the Raiders' best in 2015 were new recruits to the club - such as Josh Hodgson, Blake Austin, and Sia Soliola. Soliola won the Meninga Medal, while Austin was named Dally M Five Eighth of the Year. Hodgson was named the Fans' Choice Player of the Year.

One of the best matches came in the final round of the year when Canberra visited Parramatta. While neither team could make the finals, there was some feeling in the match as the blue and gold army had still not forgiven Ricky Stuart for leaving the Eels for the Raiders after just one season. It was a thrilling contest, with the lead changing four times - and the Raiders recovered two short kick offs late in the game to force golden point. In the final minute, Edrick Lee scored despite the attention of three defenders, to narrow the Eels' lead to two. Jarrod Croker then converted from the sideline with a magnificent kick to tie it up. Then in extra time, Josh Hodgson scored the easiest of golden tries; he dummied and strolled through.

The other best performances came early in the year. In Round 7, the Raiders produced their biggest ever comeback to defeat the Wests Tigers 30-22 at Leichhardt Oval. Canberra was down 22-0 after 25 minutes, with a gale benefiting the Tigers. But tries to Shannon Boyd and Jarrod Croker before the break brought Canberra back into contention. The scores were levelled after four pointers to Frank Paul Nuuausala (45th minute) and Jack Wighton (64th) - and Canberra only went ahead 24-22 in the 68th minute through a Croker penalty goal. The Tigers had a try disallowed in the 76th minute, before Jordan Rapana scored in the last minute for a stunning eight point victory.

The Raiders delivered their best win of the season the following week, when they travelled to Cairns to take on the 2014 premiers, South Sydney. The Rabbitohs led for most of the match and looked comfortable with a 16-8 lead at half time. But Canberra stormed home in the second 40, with the breeze behind them. A try to Blake Austin put the Raiders in front in the 66th minute, before the match was sealed by an Edrick Lee four pointer, three minutes from full time. Frank Paul Nuuasala put on a man of the match performance, with great contributions from Sia Soliola, Shannon Boyd, Josh Papalii and Paul Vaughan. Both Jordan Rapana and Edrick Lee scored doubles. It was a memorable Raiders victory.

2015 Round 8 - Canberra Raiders 30 (Jordan Rapana, Edrick Lee 2, Shannon Boyd, Josh Papalii, Blake Austin, tries; Jarrod Croker 3 goals) defeated South Sydney Rabbitohs 22

Canberra Raiders: 1. Jack Wighton 2. Edrick Lee 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Sisa Waqa 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Blake Austin 7. Sam Williams 8. Paul Vaughan 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Frank Paul Nuuausala 11. Josh Papalli 12. Sia Soliola 13. Shaun Fensom

14. Kurt Baptiste 15. Mark Nicholls 16. Jarrad Kennedy 17. Shannon Boyd

Coach Ricky Stuart
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edwahu

Re: 35 Years - 35 Great Games

Post by edwahu »

2015 underachieved. They really should've made the 8.
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greeneyed
Don Furner
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Re: 35 Years - 35 Great Games

Post by greeneyed »

2016 - Best season in more than 20 years

2016. It was the best season for the Canberra Raiders since 1995, more than 20 years. 1995 was the last time the Raiders had finished in second position on the ladder and made a Preliminary Final in a full competition. Unfortunately, the Raiders did not make it to the Grand Final in 1995 or 2016. But 2016 was an outstanding season for the Green Machine, one in which all expectations were exceeded. In the end, Canberra just missed a Grand Final appearance. They were only beaten by two points in each of the finals contests against the eventual Grand Finalists, the Sharks and Storm. Along the way, the Raiders won 10 matches in a row, the most in club history during a single season.

Canberra was number one in the league for points scored, scoring nearly 100 points more than the second placed team. No Canberra team had ever scored more points in a season, breaking the record of the 1994 outfit. All sorts of other records were broken too. Jarrod Croker became the club's highest point scorer of all time, breaking David Furner's record. He also broke the record for most points scored in single season for the club. Jordan Rapana broke the club record for most tries scored in a season, at 23.

Joey Leilua was recognised as the Dally M Centre of the Year, while Jarrod Croker was named Dally M Captain of the Year, Provan-Summons Medalist - and was the top point scorer in the NRL. Ricky Stuart was named Coach of the Year. Players like Jordan Rapana and Josh Papalii were unlucky not to win their positional awards at the Dally Ms as well. Josh Hodgson was named one of the best five players in the competition in the NRL's Official Annual.

The reaction of the fans and the city of Canberra was remarkable. The Viking Clap was first revealed in the home match against the Parramatta Eels and it was a sensation in the world of rugby league - and much more broadly. The city was engulfed in green fever when Canberra Stadium staged two home finals. It showed that no team can grip the national capital like the Raiders can.

The season was littered with impressive performances. In Round 5, the Raiders travelled to the intimidating atmosphere of Belmore Sports Ground on a Monday night, but were far from intimidated. They produced a great defensive display against a team renowned for getting in the trenches. It showed that the Raiders could defend like a real contender. Jarrod Croker scored two tries and five goals for a personal tally of 18 in the 22-8 victory.

In Round 8, the Raiders had a field day against the Wests Tigers at Canberra Stadium, winning 60-6. Canberra scored 11 tries, Jordan Rapana scored four. It was the sixth biggest win in Raiders' history. The team set a record breaking 50 point margin over the South Sydney Rabbitohs at the Olympic Stadium in Round 21, with ten tries scored in a 54-4 victory. In Round 26, a top two finish was on the line for the Raiders, a top eight position on the line for the Wests Tigers. And the Raiders unleashed. It was a nine tries and a 52-10 victory, with Joey Leilua throwing "that" around the back pass to set up Rapana for a try.

One of the best matches came in the second week of the finals - a clash with the Penrith Panthers at Canberra Stadium. After the loss to the Sharks in Week 1, the experts in Sydney all jumped off the Raiders' back. A two point defeat and suddenly the team that had scored more points than any other team, by a wide margin, was no longer the most exciting team in the NRL. The Panthers were the most exciting. It was now obvious to all the experts that the Panthers would win in Week 2.

Canberra Raiders fans were on the edge of their seats all week in the lead up, waiting for news of Josh Hodgson's ankle and Blake Austin's hand. But in the end, it was good - an apparent miracle in the case of Hodgson. Both were passed fit late in the week.

The Raiders went out to an 18-0 lead after 45 minutes and dominated for much of the first half. While the Raiders were rocking when the Panthers grabbed the momentum from around the 60 minute mark and put on two tries, Canberra was able to halt it, with captain Jarrod Croker kicking two penalties in the final five minutes to secure a 22-12 win. It qualified the team for a Preliminary Final, the first in a generation. It was a night for the true believers.

The best two performances came in successive weeks - against the ultimate grand finalists. In Round 22, the Raiders went to Shark Park and ended Cronulla's 16 match undefeated streak with a 30-14 victory. Cronulla had not lost a match at home all season, until the Raiders visited.

It was tough game of footy, a stop-start affair on a very soggy ground. It was niggling, it was grinding, it was the sort of game where penalty goals ruled. The Raiders played the Sharks' style of game and came out on top. They matched them in the forwards, more than matched them. The defence was solid in the middle. And when the Raiders made some errors, the defence was desperate when it needed to be.

There were moments that will last long in the memory. Jack Wighton made just nine tackles, but some of them were classics. He brought down a flying Ben Barba in the 62nd minute, an absolute try saver. Then he followed that in the 63rd minute, taking Feki out over the corner post. Jordan Rapana scored two tries, but the second was most memorable because of the work from Josh Hodgson in the lead up. Hodgson made an initial break, but was confronted by the scrambling Sharks defenders. Still, they had no idea what he was going to do. He dummied, he looked like he would go any which way... and then he put in a magic kick ahead for Rapana and the four points. Most of all, the match was memorable because it showed the Raiders could hang tough with the best in the competition.

The very best performance was the Round 23 bashing of the Melbourne Storm at Canberra Stadium. It was one of Canberra's best matches in years, perhaps the best defensive performance in 20 years. The 22-8 win meant Canberra had defeated the competition leaders in successive weeks, and no team had done that for 30 years.

The defence won it. We had seen the green wave of attack during the season. In this match, it was the green wall.

At one point early in the second half, the Raiders were simply pounding the Melbourne Storm, in their own half. They were smashing tackles, literally not allowing the Storm to make a metre. Cooper Cronk kicked it early in the count, simply to make it stop.

In the 65th minute, the Storm unleashed a 40/20 kick, then received a penalty - and got a lucky call of six again. The Raiders just got on with it and tackled their hearts out. On the final tackle, the Storm's Cheyse Blair was wrapped up, by Leilua, Boyd, Austin and Rapana and just marched 10 metres over the sideline. The crowd just stood and cheered. Canberra withstood anything the Storm could throw at them in the second half. And they had set after set in the Raiders' red zone.

There was some breath taking attack as well. Joey Leilua scored after just 47 seconds. Elliott Whitehead pushed through the line and got the pass to Leilua, he rampaged, Austin backed up, somehow avoided being tackled... and Leilua was there to score.

It was simply outstanding.

2016 Round 23 - Canberra Raiders (Joey Leilua 2, Shannon Boyd tries, Jarrod Croker 5 goals) 22 defeated Melbourne Storm 8

Canberra Raiders: 1. Jack Wighton 2. Edrick Lee 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Joey Leilua 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Blake Austin 7. Aidan Sezer 8. Junior Paulo 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Shannon Boyd 11. Josh Papalii 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Sia Soliola

15. Luke Bateman 16. Clay Priest 17. Joseph Tapine 19. Kurt Baptiste

Coach Ricky Stuart
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greeneyed
Don Furner
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Re: 35 Years - 35 Great Games

Post by greeneyed »

And there we have it, the final instalment in this series. Thanks all for reading!
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zim
Laurie Daley
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Re: 35 Years - 35 Great Games

Post by zim »

Excellent work GE :)
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