Ricky Stuart will refuse to make any excuses for his gallant Raiders after Friday's 30-10 preliminary final loss - but we're going to toss a few out here.
How about week after week of same-day travel up and down the eastern seaboard, culminating in a trip to Brisbane where the Queensland government refused to accommodate their request to prepare in a hotel.
Or a horrendous injury toll, which claimed key man Josh Hodgson midway through the year, plus Emre Guler, Corey Horsburgh, Bailey Simonsson and Curtis Scott to name a handful.
Melbourne had a two-week break heading into their sixth-straight preliminary final. Last Friday they watched on as the Raiders went toe to toe in a bruising affair against the Roosters.
Unfortunately, Canberra's first 20 minutes against Melbourne were some of their worst all season. And Stuart will reflect on what could have been had they defended a little more resolutely in the early stages against a team that will surely start as grand final favourites.
Canberra will be severely disappointed at a missed opportunity. That was their third preliminary final in five seasons and for that they have one losing grand final to show. But let's not forget how gutsy this side has been to come this far.
When Hodgson went down against the Storm in round nine, the Raiders were written off by just about everyone outside of Canberra.
Stuart's men won nine of their last 11 matches to finish fifth, before knocking off Cronulla and then the Roosters before meeting their match.
There are several green shoots of optimism here for 2021 and beyond.
Jack Wighton and George Williams have formed a formidable halves partnership in their first season together. Blokes like Hudson Young, Ryan Sutton, Tom Starling and Semi Valemei have emerged as potential stars of the future.
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad as a fullback Stuart can build around for the next decade, while Josh Papalii is somehow, impossibly, still improving. The premiership window is still more than ajar for Stuart's side, if they can swallow the venom of this latest defeat and use it as motivation next year.
429 not out
Cameron Smith came off early on Friday night, and gave his adoring Queensland fans a jogging lap of honour while there were still a few minutes on the clock. And in his 429th NRL match, most likely the second last of his career, he produced a play epitomising his longevity in the game.
Cotric looked set to score for all money after his sideline chip kick on the run bounced back into his grateful arms.
Smith had been tracking the play from 60m down field, and grabbed Cotric short of the line before forcing an error.
The odds are firming that he will close out his career with another NRL premiership.
Nick Cotric and John Bateman both played their last games for the Raiders on Friday.
Bateman didn't impart his usual influence, but Cotric tried valiantly to force the Raiders back into this game.
He scored a typically bullocking try from close range, reeling in a Williams cross-field kick and then beating three defenders to give Canberra a glimmer of hope. Then he managed a second late in the game.
He finishes his Raiders career with 46 tries for the club and at just 21 years old he should prove a superb pick up for the battling Bulldogs.