'No excuses' for Canberra Raiders against Gold Coast Titans: Stuart
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'No excuses' for Canberra Raiders against Gold Coast Titans: Stuart

No excuses. Not the new halves pairing. Not the raft of debutantes. Not the revamped defence. Not even the Sydney storms that wreaked havoc with their travel plans.

Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart is having none of it. His players are fully prepared for their season opener against the Gold Coast Titans, now it comes down to individuals performing on Sunday.

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart says there will be no excuses for his team against the Titans.

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart says there will be no excuses for his team against the Titans.Credit:Karleen Minney

They had their flights to the Gold Coast moved forward on Friday, only for delays to then see them fly out at a similar time to originally planned.

But with their captain's run on Saturday, the Green Machine's long pre-season is done. Now the fun begins.

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As the second-best attack in the NRL last season, the Raiders have put a massive focus on fixing their defence, which ranked fifth for points conceded in 2018.

Stuart said it was now down to the players putting all their hard work into practice against the Titans.

"We've had a lot of preparation and training around it. Now it's about individual performance in regards to both sides - defence and attack - and the overall result comes back to the individual performance," Stuart said on Friday.

"I'm expecting everyone to play well. We've had a very good off-season and there's certainly no excuses."

It's a vastly different Raiders outfit running out against the Titans, who have had an overhaul of their own.

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Plenty of questions will start to get answered when the Green Machine run out against the Gold Coast.

Although Stuart said his Canberra side will be something of a work in progress.

Jack Wighton has jumped into the Canberra halves alongside Aidan Sezer, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad flew across the ditch to fill a hole at fullback, while Jordan Rapana's (shoulder) absence has given Bailey Simonsson his NRL debut on the wing.

While 50 per cent of the spine has changed, Stuart was happy with their cohesion - especially given Nicoll-Klokstad only arrived in Canberra about a month ago.

The Titans have a forward pack bolstered by the arrival of ex-Raiders prop Shannon Boyd, while their centres have been strengthened by Tyrone Peachey (Penrith) and Brian Kelly (Manly) joining them.

Tyrone Roberts has returned to the Gold Coast after playing in the Super League grand final last year.

"The new combinations will take a bit of time, but I'm very happy with how the cohesion and the combination with a short time together has worked at training," Stuart said.

There's also been an overhaul of the forward pack, which has been trimmed down to have more mobility.

Josh Papalii has emerged as their front-row enforcer, with another NRL debutant in Corey Horsburgh banging the door down with his efforts in the pre-season.

They've also added John Bateman and Ryan Sutton from England.

Bateman has played 15 Tests for England and more than 150 Super League games, while Sutton has more than 100 appearances for Wigan.

Nicoll-Klokstad played seven NRL games for the New Zealand Warriors before joining the Raiders in February.

In all they have five players making their Raiders debut, with two of those making their first-grade debut, but Stuart said that wasn't a concern.

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"Having five new players is exciting for the club and they've got a great opportunity being a Raider and being proud of the jumper," he said.

"The best way to be proud of it is by playing well."

NRL ROUND ONE

Sunday: Canberra Raiders v Gold Coast Titans on the Gold Coast, 6.10pm. Live on Fox League.

Raiders squad: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 2. Nick Cotric, 3. Jarrod Croker (C), 4. Joey Leilua, 5. Bailey Simonsson, 6. Jack Wighton, 7. Aidan Sezer, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Josh Hodgson (C), 10. Sia Soliola, 11. Joe Tapine, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. John Bateman. Interchange: 14. Siliva Havili, 15. Ryan Sutton, 16. Dunamis Lui, 17. Corey Horsburgh. Reserves: 18. Sam Williams, 19. Jack Murchie, 20. Luke Bateman, 21. JJ Collins.

Titans squad: 1. Michael Gordon, 2. Brenko Lee, 3. Tyrone Peachey, 4. Brian Kelly, 5. Phillip Sami, 6. Tyrone Roberts, 7. Ashley Taylor, 8. Jarrod Wallace, 9. Nathan Peats, 10. Shannon Boyd, 11. Kevin Proctor, 12. Ryan James, 13. Jai Arrow. Interchange: 14. Alexander Brimson, 15. Moeaki Fotuaika, 16. Max King, 17. Bryce Cartwright. Reserves: 18. Mitch Rein, 19. Dale Copley, 20. Anthony Don, 21. Keegan Hipgrave.

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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