Rugby League


Raiders home in on Swans' secrets

Their famed ''bloods'' culture is rated a benchmark in Australian sport and Canberra Raiders coach David Furner hopes to tap into the secrets behind the Sydney Swans' successful blueprint when he visits the AFL premiers this month.

Unheralded by most experts before last season, the Swans' grit and unshakeable belief in their principles were major factors behind getting the flag back in the harbour city again.

Always keen to learn from colleagues in other sports, Furner plans to visit the Swans headquarters on January 21 to gauge some of the ingredients behind their strong on- and off-field systems.

''Culture is a massive one - they've shown that in the past and it's one they've been able to sustain and believe in,'' Furner said on Thursday. ''You can also pick up things when you go along and see how they train.

''The discussions would include travel and what they do on their long road trips - we want to make sure we're doing all the right things with recovery.

''The Swans are very similar to us in terms of we're the only rugby league team here, they're one of only two AFL teams in Sydney.


''There's always improvement [to be made] and that's what I am looking at.''

Raiders prop David Shillington said the club had made a concerted effort to fine-tune its culture and they would continue to do so before the new season.

''Obviously, the Swans have been doing it really well for a long period of time - they've got that 'blood brothers' thing going and it's very well-known they've got a great culture there,'' he said.

''It was definitely something we were trying to improve last year, to get that winning and working hard culture.

''I think we came a long way last year but we've still got a bit to go. We should keep our foot on the pedal and keep driving that.''

One of the NRL's youngest teams, the Raiders brought in respected Melbourne-based leadership coach Sam Patterson to mentor the club's second-tier leaders including Jarrod Croker, Josh McCrone and Shaun Fensom.

While there were a couple of off-field incidents, including the standing down of Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson for one match for alcohol misdemeanours, Shillington said the club was on the right track.

''I don't think we're a misbehaving club, or a low-effort-at-training club,'' Shillington said.

''Human nature will always prevail and people will make mistakes but if we create the right culture of doing the right thing, training hard and ripping in on the playing field, the club will be better as a whole.

''It would be great to get some tips off the Swannies.''

The Raiders returned to training from their Christmas break on Thursday, where they were put through a gruelling field session under the watch of new strength and conditioning coach Nigel Ashley-Jones.

Canberra's early focus has been on aerobic fitness and ensuring they avoid the slow starts to the season, which have been hindering them.

Improving decision-making under heavy fatigue has also been a primary target, highlighted by a physically and mentally draining army ''boot camp'' last month.

''It's about being able to make decisions under fatigue, that's where we need to be,'' Furner said.

''We've talked about getting a few more kilometres in the legs and we had the camp as well, just putting the team in situations they're going to be in week in, week out … like any season, they're going to be faced with adversity at times and most certainly that's what we're looking at.''

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