Canberra Raiders hope for NRL finals rollercoaster to continue for one more year

Canberra Raiders hope for NRL finals rollercoaster to continue for one more year

The Canberra Raider will want their 20-year rollercoaster ride in and out of the NRL finals to continue for one more year, but State of Origin star Josh Papalii says they'll use the ever-consistent Melbourne Storm to try to stop the trend.

For all but two of the last 20 seasons the Raiders have yo-yoed in and out of the top eight with 2003 and 2014 the only occasions they've arrested the trend.

Raiders second-rower Josh Papalii says they need to be more like the Storm to end their finals rollercoaster.

Raiders second-rower Josh Papalii says they need to be more like the Storm to end their finals rollercoaster.

Photo: Karleen Minney

If they hadn't made the finals in 2003 and missed in 2014 then every year since 1998 they would've oscillated between the top and bottom eights.

Having finished 10th last season, the Green Machine hope that trend will continue for one more season before coming to an end.

Papalii said they thought it was "just going to happen" last year, which was why they missed the eight.


And he pointed to the Storm - who will again be one of the main contenders for the premiership despite losing future Immortal Cooper Cronk to the Sydney Roosters - as the benchmark of how they end they're finals rollercoaster.

That all begins in round one against the Gold Coast Titans in Queensland on Sunday.

"They just play consistent footy every week and they work hard for each other. We're a tight knit group outside of footy, we just need to take all that on the field," Papalii said.

"We're not far off as a team. We just need to keep knocking on the door and eventually it will turn out good for us.

"In saying that we've worked hard this pre-seson and I thought we went alright in the trial game and we're looking forward to round one."

They went into 2016 as one of the favourites to win the title, but Papalii felt they didn't handle the expectation and had thought it was "just going to happen".

Raiders prop Junior Paulo had a similar sentiment, but said they were trying to fly under the radar this season in their bid to bounce back.

He felt being able to win the close games would play a massive part in that - last year they lost eight games by six points or less.

Paulo felt game management and playing "tough, grinding footy" were also keys.

"We let the results of 2016 build a lot of pressure going into '17. I think some of that hype got to us as a team," he said.

"It's something that we're trying to fly under the radar and just worry about ourselves and focusing on the areas that we needed to improve on in terms of making it our year.

"Those past two years are gone, it's about writing a new page in our book for us. Where that's going to start will be round one and it's something we've been working towards in the pre-season."

Raiders five-eighth Aidan Sezer had a simple solution - keep hold of the ball and complete their sets.

Last season they won six of the seven NRL games where they completed above 80 per cent, while they lost all 10 games when they're completion rate was below 74.

He said the flow on of that would be felt in every aspect of their keep.

It will be Sezer's first game in the Raiders No.6 jersey, having played every game for Canberra at halfback since arriving from the Gold Coast as a five-eighth.

He'll partner Sam Williams in the halves, with regular five-eighth Blake Austin on the bench as a utility.

"You hold the ball, there's a correlation with a lot of stats and everything else of your game improving," Sezer said.

"We complete above 80 per cent and we make it tough for the opposition to beat us and that's a fact.

"We've had a look at that. When we complete above 80 per cent we put ourselves in a position to win a game. That's probably the biggest thing.

"It's simple ... if you hold the ball it helps everything - it helps your defence, helps your fatigue levels, helps your attack. There's no two ways about. Just hold the ball."


Sunday: Canberra Raiders v Gold Coast Titans at the Gold Coast, 6.30pm. Live on Fox Sports.

David Polkinghorne covers the Canberra Raiders, local rugby league, Canberra Cavalry, racing and cycling, along with every other sport, for The Canberra Times.

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