Raiders under 20s player with the 2013 minor premiership trophy. Photo: Melissa Adams
CANBERRA RAIDERS have been the dominant force of the under-20s competition, finishing five points clear at the top of the ladder and winning eight of their past nine games. But it is that one loss that will drive them in Sunday's qualifying final against Canterbury at ANZ Stadium.
Former Canberra captain Alan Tongue has backed the Raiders to bounce back from the embarrassing 62-12 thumping by the Bulldogs when they met in August.
On home turf the Raiders trailed 44-0 at half-time in one of the upsets of the season.
''When you get beaten by a side by that much, it dents your confidence at the time, but it really sparks a drive in you also,'' said Tongue, who has been commentating on the under-20s competition. ''There'll be no fears about that, and they can definitely bounce back.''
The Raiders are aiming for back-to-back grand final appearances and the club's second under-20s title since the inaugural competition in 2008.
Halfback Mitch Cornish returned to captain the side last week after the NRL denied the Raiders an exemption to the second-tier salary cap so he could make his first-grade debut.
The Raiders have no shortage of firepower out wide.
Sydney Roosters-bound winger Jonathon Reuben is the competition's equal leading try-scorer with 24 this season, while powerful centre Brenko Lee and second-rowers Tevita and Tahakilu Pangai can present the opposition defence with plenty of headaches.
The only downside is the absence of injured front-rower Jeff Lynch, but props Dennis Tomarchio and Mitchell Shaw have punched above their weight in recent weeks.
The Raiders hope to have Jeremy Hawkins back from a hamstring injury later in the finals.
Holden Cup qualifying final: Canberra Raiders v Canterbury Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium, 1.30pm. TV: Live on Fox Sports 1.