The Canberra Raiders are facing a hectic schedule ahead of – and after – their sudden-death semi-final against the Parramatta Eels, but they’re doing everything they can to prepare for a non-stop must-win march to the grand final.
The team took a chartered flight to Melbourne in an attempt to maximise their preparation for the elimination final despite a six-day turnaround, and the schedule won’t get any easier, with the team travelling to Sydney on Friday for the Eels game before immediately jumping on a bus that will see them return to the nation’s capital in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Those plans have been made despite the Green Machine not even knowing if they’ll be playing next week – because the club knows that if they’re successful and have to travel to Townsville in Week 3, they’ll need the best preparation and as much time at home as possible.
“(The preparation) is very important. I’m not looking to lose this Friday,” prop Josh Papalii told the Canberra Times.
“The boys are looking forward to a challenge, but it’s doable, it’s winnable.”
Despite the confidence running through the team at the moment and the need to make plans for all possible eventualities, Papalii is trying not to get too far ahead of himself.
“We’ve been in this spot before, we’ve played in a few prelims. You get a glance of the grand final and it’s hard not to think about it.
“But last time we played in Townsville we got pumped, so it was a thought I put away pretty quick.”
Despite the demands of the schedule, club captain Elliott Whitehead believes the Raiders medical staff are well equipped to manage the team.
“We shortened up our session outside, but the quality is still there,” Whitehead said.
“We’re full of confidence and belief that we can win. (The Eels) will want to bounce back, and we want to continue our run. We’ll have a day off and we’ll be ready to go.”
The game kicks off at Commbank Stadium at 7.50pm on Friday. The Raiders have lost four of their last five meetings with Parramatta.