The Canberra Raiders have one enormous question to answer in 2024, combined with a number of smaller ones which make Ricky Stuart's job at the selection table a difficult one.

Adding to the weight of pressure on the green machine heading into 2024 is the simple fact they must find ways to perform better if they hope to make the finals again.

There is no secret the Raiders were the team in last year's top eight viewed widely as the most lucky to be there, and that can easily be traced through a negative for and against, and a number of their wins being what could only be described as scratchy.

The ultimate result most expected occurred too when they were bundled out in a high-scoring thriller against the Newcastle Knights in Week 1 of the knockout stages.

But they will now turn their attention to the upcoming campaign, where they will again be looking to prove the doubters wrong.

Here is how the Raiders line up in 2024.

Recruitment report

Ins: Zac Hosking (Penrith Panthers, 2026), Simi Sasagi (Newcastle Knights, 2025), Morgan Smithies (Wigan Warriors, 2026), Kaeo Weekes (Manly Sea Eagles, 2025)

NRL Rd 18 - Storm v Panthers
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 30: Zac Hosking of the Panthers
scores a try during the round 18 NRL match between Melbourne Storm and Penrith Panthers at Marvel Stadium on June 30, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

Outs: Jarrod Croker (retired), Matt Frawley (Leeds Rhinos), Brad Schneider (Penrith Panthers), Harley Smith-Shields (Gold Coast Titans), Semi Valemei (North Queensland Cowboys), Jack Wighton (South Sydney Rabbitohs)

Re-signed: Emre Guler (2025), Peter Hola (2024), Albert Hopoate (2025), Corey Horsburgh (2027), Sebastian Kris (2027), Danny Levi (2025), Hohepa Puru (2025), Jordan Rapana (2024), Tom Starling (2025), Chevy Stewart (2027), Adrian Trevilyan (2025), Hudson Young (2027)

Off-contract at the end of 2024: Nick Cotric, Peter Hola, Jordan Martin, Trey Mooney, Jordan Rapana, James Schiller, Elliott Whitehead, Zac Woolford

Full squad

Nick Cotric, Jamal Fogarty, Emre Guler, Corey Harawira-Naera, Peter Hola, Albert Hopoate, Corey Horsburgh, Zac Hosking, Sebastian Kris, Danny Levi, Ata Mariota, Trey Mooney, Josh Papalii, Hohepa Puru, Jordan Rapana, Simi Sasagi, Pasami Saulo, Xavier Savage, James Schiller, Morgan Smithies, Tom Starling, Chevy Stewart, Ethan Strange, Joseph Tapine, Matthew Timoko, Kaeo Weekes, Elliott Whitehead, Zac Woolford, Hudson Young

Supplementary contracts: Michael Asomua, Jordan Martin, Noah Martin, Vena Patuki-Case, Adrian Trevilyan

For a full profile of every contracted player, download Zero Tackle's 2024 NRL season guide for FREE!

NRL Rd 11 - Raiders v Rabbitohs
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - JULY 25: Nick Cotric of the Raiders Is tackled by Dane Gagai of the Rabbitohs during the round 11 NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at GIO Stadium on July 25, 2020 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Who plays where?

In the introduction, it was flagged the Raiders have a number of decisions to make outside of the bleeding obvious, and who wears the number one jumper is one of the critical ones.

While a report out this week suggests Jordan Rapana may actually win the race there to play in Round 1, it's a pair of young guns who are bagnging down the door of opportunity in Chevy Stewart and Xavier Savage.

Stewart is an unknown quantity at NRL level, but if his 2023 NSW Cup performances are anything to go by, he is going to be something special.

Savage, on the other hand, has had opportunities in the NRL previously and needs to build on them in 2024. We will name him at the one, but this is a position that could change plenty throughout the year, particularly given the performances of Sebastian Kris there last year and the depth of Canberra's outside backs.

The Raiders have a stack of options on the wing coming into the new year, although plenty of it is going to depend on how the rest of the backline shapes up.

Still, without major surprises, you would expect Jordan Rapana and Nick Cotric to be the men that start the year on the flanks for the green machine.

If Rapana plays fullback, then Xavier Savage puts his hand up for a spot on the wing.

Regardless of where Rapana and Savage play though, impressive youngsters James Schiller and Albert Hopoate are also in the mix to line up out wide, although can both line up in other positions.

Development player Michael Asomua rounds out the depth to run out on the wings for the Raiders.

Provided Sebastian Kris doesn't get named at fullback, he and Matthew Timoko are the walk-up starters for the Raiders in the centres ahead of the 2024 campaign.

The duo have both had countless strong performances in recent years and realistically aren't under a shred of pressure for their spots coming into the year, despite the outside back depth at the Raiders.

WAGGA WAGGA, AUSTRALIA - MAY 08: Sebastian Kris of the Raiders runs with the ball during the round nine NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the Newcastle Knights at , on May 08, 2021, in Wagga Wagga, Australia. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

There is plenty in the way of depth in the centres for Canberra though.

Both Schiller and Hopoate, who were mentioned above as options on the wing, also could feature at centre, while Simi Sasagi, who arrives from the Knights, has turned into a utility after coming through the ranks as a half and could line up in multiple positions including at centre.

Ethan Strange can also line up in the centres in another boost to the Raiders' list of players who can play across multiple positions.

Let's start with the easy part - Jamal Fogarty will play at halfback throughout the 2024 campaign. Now a major part of the club's leadership team, the halfback has been nothing but impressive since his arrival from the Gold Coast Titans.

But it won't be Jack Wighton partnering him as we move into the 2024 campaign after he left for the South Sydney Rabbitohs during the off-season.

That has left a two-way shoot-out for the number six jumper after Canberra didn't make a big-name signing. Instead, they signed Kaeo Weekes who was stuck down the pecking order at the Manly Sea Eagles but has a mountain of potentional, and Ethan Strange, who has shown mountains of potential.

Simi Sasagi also arrives from the Newcastle Knights.

We expect Kaeo Weekes to get first crack, but don't be surprised if this isn't set in stone.

Middle forwards
The Raiders have an excellent starting group of middle third forwards, backed up by a number of young guns coming through the ranks who will fight for bench spots.

As has been the case in recent years, Josh Papalii and Joseph Tapine will kick-off the year in the prop spots, and it's difficult to see either of them being displaced during the year, such is the skill, talent and experience they bring to their role.

NRL Rd 1 - Raiders v Wests Tigers
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 14: Joe Tapine of the Raiders in action during the round one NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the Wests Tigers at GIO Stadium, on March 14, 2021, in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

That said, there are plenty of other props at the Raiders waiting in the wings. From youngsters Ata Mariota and Hohepa Puru, to Emre Guler, Peter Hola and Pasami Saulo, the depth is certainly there that the Raiders shouldn't have too much of an issue in fielding a quality prop combination from week to week.

The same goes at lock, where Corey Horsburgh will the first-choice number 13 once he returns from an early season suspension.

Morgan Smithies has joined from England as his direct back-up, although can also line up on the edge, while Trey Mooney is also in the squad and can play at lock, completing an excellent middle third rotation for the green machine.

The Raiders have three options to run out at dummy half in Zac Woolford, Tom Starling and Danny Levi, as well as development player Adrian Trevilyan.

While Trevilyan is quite clearly the fourth of those options to see first-grade time, there is little doubt about the order of the three above him either.

Starling will play a role off the bench as he did for a sizeable chunk of last year, while Zac Woolford is now this team's starting hooker, which leaves Levi on the outer heading into the new season.

Edge forwards
On the edge, the Raiders will have one last season with Elliott Whitehead locking down a spot, while Hudson Young should again start on the other side of the park coming off a season where he made his debut in the State of Origin arena.

Zac Hosking has joined from the Penrith Panthers and should feature throughout the year somewhere, while as mentioned, Smithies can also play in the second-row.

Corey Harawira-Naera is also reportedly set to be cleared for a return and is a chance to feature off the bench at points.

Tom Starling takes the first spot on the bench without too much of a question, but there is plenty of doubt over the rest of the spots given the amount of depth Canberra have across their forward pack.

Emre Guler has been a permanent feature on their bench in recent seasona and should feature, but the arrival of Smithies and Hosking, who we are including on the pine, mean some of the youngser players may be forced to bide their time when the Raiders are at full strength this year.

The best 17

1. Xavier Savage
2. Jordan Rapana
3. Sebastian Kris
4. Matthew Timoko
5. Nick Cotric
6. Kaeo Weekes
7. Jamal Fogarty
8. Joseph Tapine
9. Zac Woolford
10. Josh Papalii
11. Elliott Whitehead
12. Hudson Young
13. Corey Horsburgh

14. Tom Starling
15. Emre Guler
16. Morgan Smithies
17. Zac Hosking

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