CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 07: Coach Ricky Stuart of the Raiders during the round 25 NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the New Zealand Warriors at GIO Stadium on September 07, 2019 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images)

Predicted Finish: 1st

Actual Finish: 5th

Much was expected of the Raiders coming into 2020 and they didn’t disappoint. Although they couldn’t secure a Top Four finish as expected, the Raiders missed out purely on points differential. They would not have looked out of place making a return to the decider but fell well short in the Prelim to the eventual Premiers.

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1. Highlights

Another Deep Final’s Run: Grand Final losses can send a team two ways. Either they take it as motivation and go one better the next year, or it destroys their confidence and sends them on a slide. Although the Raiders ultimately did finish outside of the top four, they were one game away from a return to the Grand Final. That speaks to the culture Ricky Stuart and co have build. Let’s not forget that they made another Prelim despite having their superstar number nine our for an extended period.

Defensive Steel: The Raiders have always been able to score big points, but how many games have they dropped despite scoring 24+? The answer is a frustrating amount. In 2020 the Raiders conceded under 16 points per game across the regular season, which is a brilliant effort. Only the Eels, Panthers and Storm conceded less.

Beat almost all the teams they were expected too: This one is going to sound a little strange but the Raiders only dropped two games in 2020 that could be considered “bad losses”. The Knights, who were flying at the time, beat the Green Machine in Round four, while Manly shocked them in Round six. Apart from that, they beat all the teams they were expected too, while their remaining four losses all came from eventual top four sides. No losses can really be considered “good losses” however it’s far less frustrating to drop a game to the competition leaders than it is a struggling side. That shows a level of consistency that the Raiders have hardly held over recent years (2019 aside). Good building block.

Incredible Away Record: Another point I never saw myself writing re the Raiders was their incredible away record in 2020. Eight wins and only two losses on the road across the regular season makes for stunning reading. Even more shocking is the fact that the Raiders were actually away from home in the early season despite “hosting” games. Canberra have made the capital a very difficult place to visit in recent seasons. It looks as though they now have their away form at a level to match also. They beat the Storm and Roosters away in the regular season before knocking the Roosters out in the finals at the SCG.

Watch Zero Tackle’s own Dan Nichols over at Rugby League Outlaws

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