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)

Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has revealed he is proud of his side as they line up for an elimination final in the Hunter next weekend.

Despite two straight losses at the hands of the Brisbane Broncos (last week) and the Cronulla Sharks (on Sunday), the Raiders have snuck into the finals despite having the worst for and against in NRL history for any team with a winning record.

 2023-09-03T06:05:00Z 
Sharks WON BY 18 POINTS
PointsBet Stadium
CRO   
24
FT
6
   CBR
   Crowd: 12,750

The eighth-placed finish means they will travel to take on the red-hot Newcastle Knights next weekend.

The dramatic finish to the season came after the Raiders were at one point battling for the top four, and while the club will be left to wonder what might have been, both Stuart and captain Elliott Whitehead suggested the Raiders had outperformed expectations.

“I don't know if anyone knows we are in the finals. We weren't meant to be,” Stuart said during his post-game press conference when asked if he was disappointed if his side had missed a home final.

“I'm that proud of these blokes. They have exceeded everybody's expectations and if we were a little bit better over the last month, we would have been in the top four. That's gone, but I'm so proud of these blokes for making the top eight.”

The Raiders, who have shown gritty determination at times this season, were right in the fight against Cronulla on Sunday before fading late after Sebastian Kris was sent off for a horror spear tackle that will likely see a suspension end his season.

A home elimination final went begging in the contest, and instead they will now travel to face the Knights, who completed their ninth straight victory on Saturday evening by beating the St George Illawarra Dragons in Wollongong despite resting a host of players.

 2023-09-02T09:35:00Z 
Knights WON BY 20 POINTS
Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
STI   
12
FT
32
   NEW
   Crowd: 10,137

Whitehead said the Raiders are a good enough side.

“I think we have shown throughout the season that when we get it right, we are a good side,” Whitehead said.

“Like I said, we will just focus on this week and restarting from scratch. It's win or die for us now so we will have a good dig.”

The Raiders will head into the finals as the rank outsiders to make any noise, and it gets even worse for Canberra given they have lost to the Knights twice this season, 24-14 in Round 4 away from home and 28-6 at home in Round 22.

 2023-09-10T06:05:00Z 
Knights WON BY 2 POINTS
McDonald Jones Stadium
NEW   
30
FT
28
   CBR

Stuart admitted the trip north would be a tough one.

“I don't know if going up to Newcastle plays into our hands. They are a mad passionate rugby league town so good on them. Good on [Knights coach] Adam O'Brien. He was getting sacked three months ago, so good on him,” Stuart said when asked if the trip north would play into the club's hands.

The Knights and Raiders will clash on Sunday afternoon in the opening week of the finals, with the winner to then take on the loser of the Penrith Panthers and New Zealand Warriors away from home the following week.