The Canberra Raiders are on track to finish in the top four and secure a coveted home semi final after another grinding win over the Sharks at Toyota Park last night. The Raiders haven?t won at Shark Park in ten years. It wasn?t pretty but it doesn?t need to be. Two points is two points and Raiders coach Matt Elliott conceded as much at the post match press conference. I?m sure any coach in the NRL would have taken last night?s ugly win in preference to a flashy loss.
Canberra have only lost one away game this year and that record should see the Raiders secure a home semi final and a few more big scalps along the way will see Canberra challenge for the minor premiership, something, not even I thought possible at the beginning of the season.
Anywhere between 34-36 points will see a side finish in the top four and with Canberra already well past the halfway point, they need to win less than 50% of their remaining games to make the top four with one bye still in hand.
Personally, I?d be disappointed if Canberra dropped their guard but the intensity the Raiders are showing at the moment suggests otherwise and the green machine are in it for the long haul. Canberra has one of the best defensive records and in their last two matches, have let in only 24 points.
It has been a long time coming and while the critics continue to write us off as pretenders, Canberra are slowly building to something special and once we hit our peak, we can beat any team in the NRL. Canberra has already claimed the highly prized scalps of Penrith, Canterbury, St George and the Warriors, all top four aspirants but it still isn?t enough for anyone but the true believers.
The thing that pleases me most about the Raiders is their ability to hang tough when their backs are against the wall against quality opposition. Against the Panthers, Warriors and Sharks the Raiders came from behind late in the match to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Canberra also went toe to toe with the Bulldogs in round six and came away with the points.
Last year, I have no doubt the Raiders would have lost all four matches. The development of players such as Joel Monaghan, Michael Robertson and Michael Weyman also has the Raiders well placed for the future as stalwarts Luke Davico, Jason Croker and Ruben Wiki look to retirement within the next two seasons.
We deserve to be atop the NRL ladder but don?t give us respect, we thrive on being underdogs.