Canberra Raiders adamant they've found the 'hunger'

Canberra Raiders adamant they've found the 'hunger'

The best attacking team in the NRL is set to miss the finals for the first time in history and Josh Papalii concedes it's all because "we didn't learn from last year".

Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has named an unchanged squad to close their season against the New Zealand Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium on Friday night.

Josh Papalii, Michael Oldfield, and Junior Paulo.

Josh Papalii, Michael Oldfield, and Junior Paulo.Credit:Karleen Minney

The Raiders could become the first side to score the most points in a regular season and miss the finals - a slice of unwanted history that hasn't been achieved in the game's 110-year history down under.

Seven defeats by less than six points has dealt a cruel blow to Canberra's playoff ambitions, which has left star forward Papalii frustrated with another early exit.


"I’m honestly pretty disappointed, with the roster we have and not playing finals footy, it’s definitely disappointing," Papalii said.

"I’ve always known we can score a lot of points, it’s just keeping the points out that we’re having trouble with, and that’s why we’re not in the finals.

"That’s probably the most disappointing thing about not being in the finals, the best attacking team is not going to be in the finals.

"It’s the tight games we should have won and we didn’t, that’s why we’re not there and that’s why the top eight teams are in the finals, for that reason."

The Raiders have enjoyed a late revival in claiming the scalps of two genuine title contenders but it has come too late, with no pressure on the Green Machine to fight for a finals berth.


Oldfield says a recent turnaround in fortunes has allowed Canberra to discover the hunger they need to bounce back next season when the pressure is turned up.

"It’s just learning what creates consistency in our games," Oldfield said.

"Over the last two weeks we haven’t done anything special, we’ve played a simple brand of footy and just dug deep and played for each other.

"[We] found that bit of hunger, I know it’s a bit too late but it just shows it doesn’t take much to get us ticking. Once we do put some consistent performances on the board, we know what we’re capable of.

"[Cutting out errors helps], especially come the back end of the game, we’ve got a bit more energy and we can hunt up in our defence. That’s definitely a big thing. It’s just a simplified game plan for us.

"We know we’ve got a lot of strike power individually, if we can just keep it simple and keep the errors down and keep completing sets, it puts ourselves in the best stead.

Michael Oldfield.

Michael Oldfield.Credit:Karleen Minney

"When we’ve got no pressure on us like the game on the weekend, we’re just looking to play for each other."

Canberra were on the backfoot after a nightmare month kicked off their 2018 campaign to continue a trend of lacklustre starts in recent years.


The Raiders have not won more than two of their opening four matches in a season since 2005, which has more often than not left them chasing their tails at the business end of the year.

But Oldfield says this year's revival - while coming too late to spark a finals charge - "definitely" gives them something to build in when they check in for pre-season training.

"Pre-season is a big time there and a good chance for us to regroup and start focusing on having a better start to the year," Oldfield said.

"[We can start] focusing on getting those 80 minutes performances right from the get-go and not leaving it until mid to late in the season like this year."


Friday: New Zealand Warriors v Canberra Raiders at Mt Smart Stadium, 6pm AEST. TV: Live on Fox League.

Raiders squad: 1. Brad Abbey, 2. Nick Cotric, 3. Michael Oldfield, 4. Joey Leilua, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Blake Austin, 7. Sam Williams, 8. Dunamis Lui, 9. Josh Hodgson, 10. Shannon Boyd, 11. Sia Soliola, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Josh Papalii. Interchange: 14. Emre Guler, 15. Junior Paulo, 16. Siliva Havili, 17. Luke Bateman. Reserves: 18. Jack Murchie, 19. Liam Knight, 20. Makahesi Makatoa, 21. Aidan Sezer.

Warriors squad: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 2. David Fusitu'a, 3. Peta Hiku, 4. Solomone Kata, 5. Ken Maumolo, 6. Mason Lino, 7. Shaun Johnson, 8. James Gavet, 9. Issac Luke, 10. Agnatius Paasi, 11. Adam Blair, 12. Tohu Harris, 13. Simon Mannering. Interchange: 14. Jazz Tevaga, 15, Isaiah Papali'i, 16. Bunty Afoa, 17. Gerard Beale. Reserves: 18. Leivaha Pulu, 20. Anthony Gelling, 21. Tevita Satae, 22. Karl Lawton.

Caden Helmers is a sports reporter for The Canberra Times

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