Raiders Like Underdog Tag

Canberra Raiders Ruben Wiki and Tyran Smith were more than happy for their National Rugby League club to still be wearing the underdog tag when they visited Wellington yesterday.

The so-called unfashionable club has caught most of their NRL rivals off-guard with their unbeaten run to lead the competition after eight rounds.

"Everyone is waiting for us to break but we're just looking to keep building on our start," Wiki said.

"Being well away from Sydney, we're not involved in all the hype that goes on in the NRL. We're left to go about our business.

"We've stepped up. Just look at where we are in the table."

New Zealanders Smith and Wiki were in Wellington to help promote their "home" game against the New Zealand Warriors at Westpac Stadium on May 23. The game was shifted because of a potential clash in Canberra that weekend with rugby's ACT Brumbies.

If it goes well Canberra will consider a longer-term arrangement in Wellington.

Some might argue that Canberra have had a reasonably comfortable start to the season with games against North Queensland, Wests Tigers, St George-Illawarra, Penrith, Parramatta, Canterbury Bulldogs and South Sydney, a number of whom will not be serious premiership contenders.

But that does not bother Wiki and Smith.

"The club's recruited well, Matthew Elliott is a good coach with a proven record, and the players have a lot of confidence in each other," backrower Smith said.

Last year was one of rebuilding at Canberra, Wiki said, and to scramble into the top eight for the playoffs was encouraging.

The off-season signings were highlighted by Parramatta's Ian Hindmarsh, Brad Drew and Adam Mogg, all of whom were playing well.

Fullback Clinton Schifcofske had been magnificent on attack. Besides having scored six tries, Wiki said, he was making the forwards' job easier with his long solo breaks.

The club had two concerns, the lack of a main jersey sponsor and their inability to be favoured with free-to-air television coverage from Channel 9 despite their continued winning ways.

Wiki, 30, said the club finally expected to announce a jersey sponsor before this weekend's game against Melbourne and Channel 9 has the Raiders free-to-air on May 30 against Cronulla, their first date in 103 weeks.

"Again it just seems the Sydney clubs are seen as more popular than us, but Newcastle have been getting a good deal," Smith said.

Prop Wiki, who has remained loyal to Canberra since 1993, has one more year on his contract. The much-travelled Smith, 29, ends a two-year deal this year and is negotiating for an extension.

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