Canberra Raiders fans get a glimmer of hope
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Canberra Raiders fans get a glimmer of hope

Raiders fans were out in force.

Raiders fans were out in force.Credit:Rohan Thomson

They are one of the most ardent supporter groups in the NRL and the Canberra Raiders faithful were out in force to get a glimmer of hope that will have them counting down the days until next season.

A staggering 15,990 fans turned out to see a Raiders outfit that had no chance of making the NRL finals topple the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Canberra Stadium last Sunday.

It brings Canberra's average crowd for the 2018 season to 11,862 - a drop of more than 2000 on last year, which was the club's best return in 24 years.

The majority - like Raiders coach Ricky Stuart and captain Josh Hodgson - will have been left to rue what might have been this season as Canberra prepare to call it a day following Friday's trip to face the New Zealand Warriors.

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But more performances like the ones dished up in Canberra's last two outings, which bore two wins over top three teams, will keep them coming back for more next year.

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Stuart says the Green Machine were playing for two groups of people when they stunned the Rabbitohs.

One was departing trio Blake Austin, Shannon Boyd and Junior Paulo. The second could be heard from a mile away, and they gave Stuart a rousing reception when he received his NRL Hall of Fame ring after the game.

"That was all those people out there, 16,000 turned up for us," Stuart said.

"That’s massive. We’ve got probably the most loyal bunch of supporters in the competition... [I also want to] thank the NRL in regards to the opportunity they gave me out there in receiving the Hall of Fame ring off John McIntyre."

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While the club's average crowd numbers were down on the 14,097 achieved in 2017 and the 12,183 notched up during their run to the preliminary final in 2016, the Raiders shattered their membership barrier this season.

Canberra finished with 20,054 members before the window closed in July and the club's late-season revival has provided those punters with a glimmer of hope heading into next year.

The Raiders have come close to setting the benchmark when it comes to turning regular fans into members with $1 million giveaways, the viking clap on match day and reconnecting with the club's roots.

For those that can't wait to board the Green Machine for next year, the club's membership window for the 2019 season is slated to open in September.

Caden Helmers is a sports reporter for The Canberra Times

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