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Time for Raiders to put up or shut up

Sandor Earl says the Raiders need add grit to their game.

Sandor Earl says the Raiders need add grit to their game. Photo: Colleen Petch

Canberra winger Sandor Earl says using the side's youth as an excuse is no longer acceptable, and it must be willing to match strikepower with starch to be a premiership contender.

For years the Raiders have been dubbed a ''young, up-and-coming side'' who ''play an exciting brand of football'' with the potential to score plenty of points.

But Earl said they need to complement their attacking prowess with the grit that will instil fear into the opposition.

''I think it's time for those excuses to go,'' Earl said.

''We definitely have to remove ourselves from the whole 'we're an exciting team, we're talented', we have to move away from that and become a team people don't want to play.

''Yeah, we can score tries and have got some freak, but we have to make teams not want to play us because it's going to be a hard game, that they have to fight and fight for the win.''

Simple stats back up Earl's stance emphatically.

The Raiders scored the fifth-most points in the NRL last year, behind top five outfits North Queensland, Melbourne, Canterbury and Souths.

But their defence leaked the sixth-most points, with only bottom-eight sides Parramatta, Roosters, Warriors, Penrith and Wests Tigers conceding more.

''We've done too much work, especially on our defence. If you're playing the Raiders now you have to trade set for set and it's going to be hard,'' he said.

''We're an exciting football team, there's no doubt. Now we have to take that, [instil] some discipline and start winning the tough games.

''If we do that they're going to have to watch out, because players like your Duges [Josh Dugan] and everyone else in the backline are going to be coming at you and scoring some bullshit tries.''

Before their late winning streak that propelled them into the finals, Canberra displayed a worrying penchant for following a comprehensive win over a top side, with an inept loss against a cellar-dweller.

In round 18 it thrashed eventual premier the Storm 40-12 in Melbourne, before losing 38-26 at home to the Gold Coast the following week.

''It's definitely a confidence team, but we need to move past that, we've got too many good players and too many experienced players now,'' Earl said.

''We need to have a good win, brush it, go to the next game and move on.

''I remember saying to the boys, you probably won't look up and see that score against Melbourne again.

''We got caught up in it and were still in that win probably up until the [Titans] game. You just can't do that.''

While the former Panther was outstanding after joining Canberra midway through last season, he believes he was only at 70 per cent, having returned from reconstructions on both shoulders.

It's a bold statement that puts pressure on him to justify it, as does his extroverted personality.

Earl has been in brilliant form during the pre-season, scoring doubles in each of Canberra's trials.

''I've said now for a while I still was at 70 per cent last year, and I can't wait to show everyone that this year,'' Earl said.

''I've thought about that. All these tattoos, you'll see me wearing some pretty funky boots, blond hair, green rock tape, you can't miss me.

''I guess there's that element of … you don't want to be having a bad game looking like that.''

SATURDAY

NRL trial match: Canberra Raiders v Canterbury Bulldogs at Goulburn Workers Arena, 7pm. For tickets, phone the Goulburn Workers Club on (02) 4821 3355.

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