Finals return driving Raiders coach Ricky Stuart
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Finals return driving Raiders coach Ricky Stuart

Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart says missing the top eight is already driving him to make the NRL finals next season.

He thinks the departing trio of Blake Austin, Junior Paulo and Shannon Boyd have helped lay a platform which the Green Machine can build on in 2019.

The Raiders' finals fate was sealed following their round 22 loss to the Wests Tigers at Canberra Stadium and they went into their final-round clash against the New Zealand Warriors knowing they'd finish 10th.

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart says they've laid a platform for next season.

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart says they've laid a platform for next season.Credit:NRL Imagery

It's the third time they've finished 10th under Stuart, having only played made the finals once - in 2016.

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But the Raiders showed they could match it with any team in the NRL over the final three weeks, beating top-four teams Sydney Roosters and South Sydney and then narrowly losing to the finals-bound Warriors in Auckland on Friday night.

Stuart said they'd managed to fix errors over the final three rounds, but he was still left disappointed by the season as a whole.

Given the struggles of some of the teams in the top eight, like a sliding St George Illawarra, there'd been suggestions it would be better having an in-form team like the Raiders in the finals instead.

Stuart dismissed that and said they weren't a top-eight team, but he's determined to turn that around next year.

"It's the best part of the season and that's what we all play for. We've played 25 rounds of the season and we're disappointed that we're not going to be in that final eight," he said.

"People talk about the fact it'd be great to have [the Raiders] there, you're a team that can beat teams in the top eight. Well, we're not. We've got to be realistic, we're not in the top eight.

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"This time next year I want to be preparing to be in the top eight because otherwise you're just sitting here disappointed with the fact you're not playing in the best part of the season."

While they farewelled three members of their best 17, Stuart felt they'd helped prepare the Green Machine climb back up the ladder.

They'll be without Austin's at-times lethal running game, with the five-eighth joining Warrington in the English Super League, as well as their two big boppers in Boyd (Gold Coast) and Paulo (Parramatta).

At this stage they'll be bolstered by the arrival of England international John Bateman and his Wigan teammate Ryan Sutton.

Over the final three games the Raiders looked a lot more controlled in attack and more defensively solid as well.

"We've got three boys who are leaving, they've helped us build a platform that we can and we have to bounce off and build off next season," Stuart said.

"I think we've learnt a hell of a lot this year, but I know they're all very disappointed in the situation of not being in the play-offs."

Boyd's right at home hunting pigs and fishing - a far cry from the glitz and glamour of the Gold Coast.

But rather than wondering how Boyd would cope with the glitter strip, Raiders halfback Sam Williams was more concerned with how the Gold Coast would cope with the big bopper.

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"Boydy brings a big smile to the boys' faces when he comes in. In that respect it's sad to see them going. We'll all remain mates and stay in touch over the years as well," Williams said.

"We've been giving him a little bit of stick. It'll be funny, the big fella with the big farmers tan out on the beach.

"Might be a bit of a shock to the Gold Coast rather than to Boydy settling in there. He'll do well.

"He's a really good person Shannon, he'll fit in at the club and he's got a young family that he's looking after."

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