Canberra Raiders
Season Preview

Season Preview: Canberra Raiders

2010 Position: 7th (13 Wins, 11 Losses)

Gains: Nathan Massey (Canterbury Bulldogs NYC), Brett White (Melbourne Storm), Blake Ferguson (Cronulla Sharks), Mark Ioane (New Zealand Warriors), Matt Orford (Bradford Bulls)

Losses: Justin Carney (Sydney Roosters), Scott Logan (Retirement), Troy Thompson (Melbourne Storm), Adam Mogg (Retirement), Marc Herbert (Bradford Bulls, ESL), Joel Monaghan (Released)

In 2010 the Canberra Raiders almost repeated the feat of the 2009 Parramatta Eels – coming from obscurity to finish the year off with a bang, only to finish the season at the hands of West Tigers thanks largely to a cruel ACL injury to their most important player Terry Campese in the Semi Final.

A lot of positives can be taken from their performance last year, and it’s hard to not get ahead of yourself when you look at their potential in the upcoming 2011 season. Young guns like Josh Dugan, Jarrod Croker, and Joel Thompson will start the 2011 campaign more mature. Add to that impressive Cronulla recruit Blake Ferguson and the Raiders have a core of very talented and young outside backs. The halves pairing of Campese (when he returns) and Orford on their day can mix it with the best of them, so plenty to get excited over there. The Raiders forward stocks have been improved with the addition of NSW state of origin prop Brett White. On paper the Raiders boast the best forward pack in the league.

Without a doubt 2010 was the rise and rise of gun fullback Josh Dugan. His praises have been sung by many, especially after his two Man of the Match performances in the only two representative games he’s played so far. Comparisons have been made with another Canberra favourite Brett Mullins. Mullins played a pivotal part in the Raiders 1994 premiership season, and the weight of expectation is for Dugan to do the same. You can’t help but feel that if Dugan can maintain his rise in form, then a NSW spot is within his grasp and the Raiders will feature heavily in the 2011 Finals series.

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One thing the Raiders don’t need is a repeat of the dog act which sent animal welfare groups barking mad. The chief instigator Joel Monaghan was subsequently released, and it seems the club (and Labrador) have moved on.

What went right in 2010: 2010 was a successful year for the green machine and as mentioned earlier – who knows how far they could have went if it were not for a cruel ACL tear to Campese. Young guns Dugan and Crocker got better and better, as well as the rise of prop David Shillington who impressed so much, picked up the Dally M prop of the year and played for Australia in the Four Nations tournament. Young coach David Furner also impressed with the way he got his troops playing an exciting brand of footy, and was subsequently awarded a contract extension by two seasons, keeping the 41-year-old in the top job until 2014.

What went wrong in 2010: By and large 2010 was a successful season so not much went wrong , but unless you win the ultimate prize, there is always things teams can improve on. The Raiders impressive home record was shot down – two matches against the Wests Tigers and South Sydney Rabbitohs spring to mind when they failed to put them away. Not going on with the job is a common trait for a team full of young players, so perhaps this aspect of the Raiders will be improved this year. The Raiders also have to learn to deal with life without Campese for the beginning part of 2011. Although it was very harsh to lose him like they did in the semi final last year, it was obvious they were lost out there without him. Again this is something that will most likely be fixed this year thanks largely to Orford and the team knowing ‘Campo’ won’t be back for some time and therefore planning for that.

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Final Say For 2011: In 2011 the Raiders are not – I repeat – NOT wooden spoon favourites. And in some years when they have been – they’ve made the eight. This year they’re favoured to make the eight, so one can draw a bow and say one of two things. Either they’ll come last or they’ll go on to win the comp. I’ll say it right now – the Canberra Raiders will not come last. Everyone get ready for the bad and mean, GREEN MACHINE!

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