Rugby League


Canberra Raiders hope big NRL start continues against Manly Sea Eagles

The Canberra Raiders think the early Friday night timeslot could be a perfect fit, but will wait to see what the Green Machine fans think before putting their hands up for more.

They'll also make a play for an Anzac Day fixture, seeing it as a logical fit for the home of the Australian War Memorial and Duntroon.

The Raiders are pushing for a big turnout for their final home game for at least a month - against the Manly Sea Eagles - as they continue to turn on-field success into success off it.

They're gunning for their fourth win in a row, which could see them climb into the top four as they start to hit their straps.

The hype around the club following their charge to last year's preliminary final has seen them average crowds of 15,514 for home games - their biggest start to a season since 1995.

On top of that, Raiders chief executive Don Furner announced Income Tax Professionals as a jersey sponsor on Thursday.


It completes their jersey and Fairfax Media believes it's now worth almost $2.2 million in sponsorship per annum - a club record.

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has led the Green Machine's revival and he backed the 6pm timeslot as ideal for Canberra.

The early starting time meant poor crowds in Sydney, with the Harbour City's infamous traffic making it hard for fans to get to games.

Stuart said that wasn't a problem in the ACT.

"I think it suits us here in Canberra to be quite honest, especially in the middle of winter. It's good for families to bring their children out here around sixish," he said.

"They're back home by 9-9.30pm, more so than the 8pm start where it's a pretty late night.

"Especially logistically with us, we don't have to travel too far to get here so I saw [Luke Bateman] during the week telling everyone to knock off work early.

"They'll see a wonderful tribute for our Anzacs tomorrow night and I know we're going to get a really healthy crowd and it will be a great event again."

Furner also felt it was a perfect fit for the nation's capital, but said they'd be guided by how the fans voted with their feet.

They're tracking for a crowd of about 13-14,000, depending on how many "walk ups" they have.

It's the Raiders' last home game for more than a month, with their next game at Canberra Stadium against the Sydney Roosters in round 12 on May 28.

That'll be a brief respite from an NRL drought in the ACT, with that being their only home game over the next eight weeks.

"We asked for the [early] game in round one, we wanted to kick the season off ... because we don't think 6pm will worry us - people can finish work at 5pm and still get here at 5.30pm," Furner said.

"Tomorrow will be the telling factor, so if they support it we should get some more."

Canberra will hold the traditional Anzac ceremony before kick-off and will provide free entry for defence personnel.

The Sydney Roosters and St George Illawarra Dragons have played each other on Anzac Day since 2002, while the Melbourne Storm and New Zealand Warriors started playing each other on the historic day in 2009.

Furner said they'd continue to push to have an Anzac Day clash of their own.

"We would love to. We're the home of the War Memorial, we're the home of the armed services. It makes sense for us to be able to host one," he said.

"We're hosting the Anzac Test [on May 5], it's okay for us to host a Test here.

"All I can say is I hope once the NRL get more control of the draw going forward that we get a bit more equality in those sort of matches and share of times that we get - Sunday afternoons or even Friday nights."


Friday: Canberra Raiders v Manly Sea Eagles at Canberra Stadium, 6pm. Tickets available from Ticketek.

Raiders squad: 1. Jack Wighton, 2. Nick Cotric, 3. Jarrod Croker (C), 4. Joey Leilua, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Blake Austin, 7. Aidan Sezer, 8. Junior Paulo, 9. Josh Hodgson , 10. Shannon Boyd, 11. Josh Papalii, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Joe Tapine. Interchange: 14. Adam Clydsdale, 15. Luke Bateman, 16. Dunamis Lui, 17. Sia Soliola. Reserves: 18. Dave Taylor, 19. Jordan Turner.

Sea Eagles squad: 1. Tom Trbojevic, 2. Jorge Taufua, 3. Dylan Walker, 4. Brian Kelly, 5. Akuila Uate, 6. Blake Green, 7. Daly Cherry-Evans (C), 8. Brenton Lawrence, 9. Apisai Korisau, 10. Martin Taupau, 11. Frank Winterstein, 12 Curtis Sironen, 13. Jake Trbojevic. Interchange: 14. Lewis Brown, 15. Jackson Hastings, 17. Addin Fonua-Blake, 18. Nate Myles. Reserves: 20. Matthew Wright, 21. Shaun Lane

*The Canberra Raiders are urging the bosses to let staff off early this Friday afternoon so they can catch the kick-off with the #FridayFreePass. Click here to get yours.