The Canberra Raiders managed to sneak into the finals last year thanks to their incredible finish, and the dramatic fadeout of the Brisbane Broncos, but will be looking for a far greater string of results in 2023.

And they might just have the team to do it.

A powerful forward pack, a clean bill of health (at the time of publication) and youngsters continuing to improve will put the green machine in good stead for the season ahead.

It's the young guns who could ultimately control the fate of the club, with the likes of Matt Timoko establishing himself last year, Xavier Savage looking to do so this year, and young forwards like Ata Maraiota and Clay Webb pushing for opportunities.

Ricky Stuart's future is also sorted, which will settle the team ahead of 2023, which is a campaign hard to place the Raiders for.

Here is how they will line-up in 2023.

Recruitment report

Ins: Danny Levi (Huddersfield Giants, 2024), Ata Mariota (2024), Pasami Saulo (Newcastle Knights, 2024)

Outs: Adam Elliott (Newcastle Knights), Josh Hodgson (Parramatta Eels), Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (New Zealand Warriors), Harry Rushton (Huddersfield Giants), Ryan Sutton (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Sam Williams (released)

Re-signed: Matt Frawley (2023), Corey Harawira-Naera (2026), Corey Horsburgh (2025), Ata Mariota (2024), Xavier Savage (2025), James Schiller (2024), Tom Starling (2024), Joseph Tapine (2028), Matthew Timoko (2025), Zac Woolford (2024)

Off-contract at the end of 2023: JJ Clarkson, Matt Frawley, Emre Guler, Albert Hopoate, Jordan Rapana, Brad Schneider, Adrian Trevilyan, Clay Webb

Full squad

Nick Cotric, Jarrod Croker, Jamal Fogarty, Matt Frawley, Emre Guler, Corey Harawira-Naera, Peter Hola, Albert Hopoate, Corey Horsburgh, Sebastian Kris, Danny Levi, Ata Mariota, Trey Mooney, Josh Papalii, Jordan Rapana, Pasami Saulo, Xavier Savage, James Schiller, Brad Schneider, Harley Smith-Shields, Tom Starling, Joseph Tapine, Matthew Timoko, Adrian Trevilyan, Semi Valemei, Clay Webb, Elliott Whitehead, Jack Wighton, Zac Woolford, Hudson Young

Development players: JJ Clarkson, Zane Dunford, Brad Morkos, Ethan Strange

Who plays where?

With the departure of Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, it's clear the Raiders are investing their future in young gun Xavier Savage.

The fullback and winger had a handful of games in 2022, but struggled to make the jumper his own, splitting it with Nicoll-Klokstad and Jordan Rapana throughout the season.

Rapana is still at the club and will line-up on the wing, but is the likely first-choice back up to move into the number should injury or form issues strike Savage.

Albert Hopoate, who can play fullback, wing or centre, impressed during a number of opportunities last year in the outside backs and could be another option to play at the back should injury problems hit.

As mentioned, Albert Hopoate will be an option to line-up at both wing and centre as he was at the back, but he will do well to dislodge some of the talent out of the positions after the incredible finish the green machine made to the 2023 season.

Nick Cotric and Jordan Rapana can be expected to line-up as the starting wingers for the 2023 campaign. Rapana is a try-scoring machine and runs the ball equally as hard, while Cotric is an experienced, defensively sound winger.

Cotric didn't have the most fantastic of 2022 campaigns though, and could come under pressure without some strong early performances. The Raiders have plenty of depth in the outside backs, with Hopoate joined on the back-up list by the likes of Harley Smith-Shields, Semi Valemei and James Schiller, who has made six NRL appearances and shown plenty of talent.

Smith-Shields is one player who could fight his way into first-grade this year as well. He was rumoured to be in Ricky Stuart's 17 last year before suffering a season-ending injury.

Matt Timoko and Sebastian Kris grabbed the centre jerseys in the Raiders' side last year with an iron fist and are unlikely to let them go anytime soon.

Both players had excellent campaigns, and have become the embodiment of a modern-day centre - powerful, good footwork, ability to pass and strong defensively.

Both will continue to improve this year as well, and while the likes of Smith-Shields, James Schiller, Semi Valemei will push for a spot, it's Jarrod Croker who is closest.

The veteran centre, who will push for 300 games should he get onto the field, is out of the Best 17, but if he is fit, it'll be a difficult decision for coach Stuart.

The other player who Raiders fans will be excited about is Brad Morkos. Originally out of the Illawarra system, the powerhouse played for the New South Wales under-19 side last year and is a serious talent.

The big issue during the slow start to the season last year for the Raiders was the injury to Jamal Fogarty.

His off-season move from the Titans had plenty of expectation around the return of Jack Wighton to form, and a controlling influence over the side pushing the green machine in the right direction.

The Raiders ultimately got that, but not until the midway point of the season. Fogarty fit like a glove once he made it onto the field, and will do so again this year in combination with Wighton.

Sam Williams' retirement means there is slightly less depth, with Brad Schneider and Matt Frawley the first men to be called in, ahead of development player Ethan Strange, who is a future NRL number seven.

Schneider started in Fogarty's absence last year and will continue to improve his game with more experience in the NRL.

Middle forwards
Josh Papalii and Joseph Tapine will be the starting props for the Raiders, and again form one of the most damaging combinations in the NRL.

They were keys to the Raiders emergence as a top eight side last year, with Tapine in particular taking his game to the next level - how he wasn't named in the Dally M team of the year is baffling.

The Raiders have signed Pasami Saulo from the Newcastle Knights to add to their depth this year in the middle, with Corey Horsburgh, Emre Guler, Trey Mooney, Clay Webb, Peter Hola and young gun Ata Mariota also at the club.

Mariota seems to be the smokey to play in Round 1, but more on that when we get to the bench.

One of those players also needs to play at lock, and we are predicting in a wide-open race to replace Adam Elliott that it'll be Corey Horsburgh. The red-headed firebrand forward had some damaging performances off the bench for the Raiders last year, can ball play well for a big man and has enough experience to control that jersey on a weekly basis.

NRL Rd 1 - Raiders v Wests Tigers

The Raiders' signing of Danny Levi means they now have three hookers fighting for the spots in the side, with Adrian Trevilyan also sniffing around for an opportunity.

Trevilyan will be at the back of the queue, but Levi's addition creates an enormous question - the experienced hooker has just finished a stint in the Super League and will now have to fight Zac Woolford for a spot.

Tom Starling will be in the side (although likely off the bench given his spark), with Woolford and Levi to fight to start.

Woolford was superb last year and will be tough to drop, but it's going to be Levi who will take the first opportunity of the year.

On the edge, Hudson Young and Elliott Whitehead will continue to control the two starting spots ahead of Corey Harawira-Naera. Whitehead is the experienced statesman of the side, while Young's 2022 season was so good that he was talked about as a potential option to head to the Rugby League World Cup with Australia.

Both players are critical to Canberra's chances this year, and being backed up by Corey Harawira-Naera leaves the side in a good state on the edge.

They are, outside of those three though, short on edge forwards, with Clay Webb - who can also play in the middle - being the only other realistic option in the Top 30 as it stands.

With Levi starting at hooker, the first picked on the bench is the explosive Tom Starling, although it would hardly be a surprise if he wound up starting at some point during the year.

The remainder of the bench is made up by the Raiders' crop of forwards. Emre Guler and Corey Harawira-Naera are automatic inclusions in the middle and on the edge respectively, leaving just a single spot.

Pasami Saulo will be in the running after his shift from Newcastle, however, the Raiders may look to promote one of their own in Mariota.

A 21-year-old, he played 18 NSW Cup games last year, tackling at almost 95 per cent and making 121 metres per game while adding 25 offloads and 46 tackle breaks. He looked like he belonged during his NRL debut as well.

The best 17

1. Xavier Savage
2. Nick Cotric
3. Matt Timoko
4. Sebastien Kris
5. Jordan Rapana
6. Jack Wighton
7. Jordan Rapana
8. Josh Papalii
9. Danny Levi
10. Joseph Tapine
11. Hudson Young
12. Elliott Whitehead
13. Corey Horsburgh
14. Tom Starling
15. Emre Guler
16. Corey Harawira-Naera
17. Ata Mariota