The Raiders are on the verge of winning their first wooden spoon since 1982. Photo: Getty Images
Former Canberra Raiders captain Ron Giteau has urged the current players to prove coach Ricky Stuart wrong and show they can compete without big name stars as they prepare for Sunday's wooden spoon showdown with Cronulla.
After Saturday's 34-16 home loss to St George Illawarra, a frank Stuart declared that until he attracts representative class players the Raiders' fortunes ''ain't going to change''.
The current team will be outright last, and favourite to join the unwanted annals of history, should they lose at Remondis Stadium on Sunday.
Former Raiders star Ron Giteau has urged the players to prove Ricky Stuart wrong.
Giteau joined the Raiders in 1983 from Easts. Canberra won just four games in 1982 before leaping to 10th with nine wins the following season, and sixth in 1984.
The 1983 side was also devoid of representative talent, but hard-nosed first graders like Craig Bellamy, Terry Fahey and Giteau were recruited from outside to nurture the emerging youngsters.
Giteau said the current squad could do worse than take a leaf out of that book.
"What's wrong with us? That's what they [players] should be saying,'' Giteau said.
"They're all getting paid two or three hundred grand, tell them to get on the end of a shovel and see how it is.
"We had to play at our maximum to get a result, we had to earn everything.
"When you get a bit of polish on it, there's actually more satisfaction knowing you once did it without those guys.''
The Raiders have struggled to attract star talent to bolster its ranks, with targets Michael Ennis, Kevin Proctor, James Tedesco and Josh Mansour all opting to stay at their clubs.
Once the Raiders signed club legend Mal Meninga in 1986, other big names including Gary Belcher and Gary Coyne followed, helping turn Canberra into a title force.
Giteau believes the current side can achieve something similar but it will take time.
"[In the `80s] Canberra was the last-chance saloon, but I wouldn't go back to Sydney now for the world,'' he said.
"When they brought Mal everyone else followed, they had to shut the door to keep them out.
"I'm sure they can rebuild but in the professional era it's a bit more serious and everyone's more accountable.
"You never like to see your former club in this sort of position.''
Canberra 1982 player Peter McGrath was ACT Brumbies chairman from 1999-2005, a period the Super Rugby club won both its titles.
He backed the club's move to sack Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson, despite Stuart admitting in his post-match press conference ''losing two Origin players last year has put us in this rut''.
Not every club has a host of internationals; club sides are built around hardened first graders who are going to play week-in, week out,'' McGrath said.
"It's great to have international players and it's fantastic to play with them, but sometimes you're not blessed with that.
"They've got to be patient and, if they are making decisions based on culture and values for the organisation, in the long run, will prosper.
"If you look at the players they've had to move on, the decisions to do that I wouldn't question. They were essentially the nucleus of a team, they've got to replace them and bring people up, and over time they will fill those roles.
"I feel very strong the Raiders have made some really hard decisions and, in time, if people are patient and support them and are loyal, those decisions will be proven right.''
While at the Brumbies, McGrath had the advantage of luring outside talent with the attraction of playing with internationals like Stephen Larkham, George Gregan and Joe Roff.
The Raiders don't have that luxury, but McGrath insisted it's not mission impossible.
"In many respects Don Furner [foundation coach] fed us to the lions and that's how it had to be,'' McGrath said.
"There's no doubt successful clubs continue to attract good players, and when you get off that treadmill it's hard to get back on.
"Unfortunately that's where the Raiders are, but they can do it because they have a good junior structure and with some clever purchasing, like they did at the start.
"An old hard head like Ron Giteau was fantastic for the joint, he was an important signing and it gradually built.''
Asked if Furner would have virtually conceded his initial squad wasn't good enough, McGrath said: "Don didn't have to say it, it was blatantly obvious.''
"You don't come last by a country mile and think you have an adequate player list.
"Ultimately Ricky's going to have to work with what he's got, but you don't need to be a rocket scientist to see the squad needs to be bolstered.''