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Win or bust for 2016 Raiders

Jarrod Croker will likely miss out on Origin, but deserves to be there. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)
Roar Guru
15th September, 2016
7

The success of the Raiders’ season relies solely on the outcome of their game this weekend. Win, move on to the Storm the following week and go into the game with nothing to lose.

Get beaten by the Panthers and consider the season a waste.

It might seem harsh but making the top four is not an easy thing to do, you need to consolidate your season. While the Raiders have the potential to compete again next year, there are no guarantees that they won’t yo-yo back down to the bottom eight.

Pressure is high in the nation’s capital, their fans are hungry after not only spending the last five years in NRL wilderness but also seeing their best talent poached, sacked, bail or back flip. Anthony Milford, Blake Ferguson, Josh Dugan, Todd Carney and James Tedesco are just some of the names that have been signed to Canberra at one point of time.

They’ve played an entertaining brand of attacking football that has seen them thoroughly deserve second spot on the ladder. They are the underdog story, a team with not many rep players, or even players with finals experience, who have become everyone’s second favourite team. Mine included.

But just ask Eels and Warriors fan and they will tell you that one good season doesn’t guarantee long-lasting success. The ’09 Eels and ’11 Warriors both promised dynasties of success and haven’t been sighted in the finals since. And they are two teams that qualified for the grand final.

While a Canberra fairytale is still possible, there is a lot more going against them at the moment. They have injury worries with both Blake Austin and Josh Hodgson, two of their key playmakers, facing nervous waits to see if they play again this season.

Their squad lacks finals experience and they face a red-hot Panthers outfit who looked sublime against the Bulldogs last Sunday.

The Panthers look in scary form at the moment, and yes a win against the Dogs can’t be compared to one of the top sides, but Penrith look to be playing the Raiders at the best time possible. Matt Moylan has the ball on a string, 18-year-old Nathan Cleary doesn’t looked overawed by the occasion and Josh Mansour is proving near impossible to tackle.

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Lose this week and there is no way Raiders fans will declare this year as a success. The last team to finish top four and bundle out in straight sets was the 2014 Manly Sea Eagles. Take it from a fan, having your sights set on the first weekend in October before disappearing midway through September is not easy to stomach.

A win this weekend will restore faith in the Green Machine. While they won’t be considered favourites against the Storm in Melbourne, being underdogs is just the way the Raiders like it. And that might be just what they need to go all the way through to the big dance the following weekend.

Write off the Raiders at your own peril.

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