The Canberra Raiders timeline
A history of the club, by the club.1982-1991
A CLUB IS BORN
On the 30th of March, 1981, the Canberra Raiders were admitted into the NSWRL competition along with one other team, the Illawarra Steelers.
Don Furner was installed as head coach and ex-Tiger David 'Nana' Grant (RIP) was named captain of the 1st grade side.
The Raiders jersey was designed by local resident Patricia Taylor who used the lime green, blue, gold and white to represent both the ACT colours and the colours of the first Rugby League team in the area, Hall.
Although the first season was tough going for the new team, local support was strong with crowds at Seiffert Oval averaging around 10,000.
The fans were rewarded for their support on the 18th of April when the Raiders took their first ever scalp, 1981 Grand Finalists the Newtown Jets. Down 11-7 late in the game, try-scoring whiz Chris O'Sullivan crossed to push the Raiders ahead 12-11 and the slim lead was held until the final siren.
3 more wins would come in '82, including one over St George in front of a record Seiffert crowd of 13,758. Off the field the Canberra Raiders Supporters Club was born and workhorse Jon Hardy took out the club's inaugaral Best and Fairest award.
1983 saw steady progression by the Raiders, racking up 9 wins for the season and finishing 10th on the competition ladder.
At the same time they were showing a glimpse of the coming years and the attacking style of play they would change the game with in the late 80's.
Although the side lacked the class of the Sydney heavyweights, they made up for it in fitness and flair which enabled them to score 495 points by season's end, 6th best in the league.
They grabbed their first ever away win with a 24-8 thumping of Cronulla at Endeavour Oval but their best performance was without doubt an 8-0 shutout of premiers Parramatta in front of 13,578 delirious fans at Seiffert Oval.
Club m ascot Victor the Viking came into existence, PM Bob Hawke became the Raiders #1 ticket-holder and import Ron Giteau scored 193 points for the season, edging out Peter McGrath's previous record of 41.
ON THE RISE
1984 saw the Raiders continue to climb in stature.
The arrival of Dean Lance and Ivan Henjak boosted the club's ranks and Sieffert Oval was fast becoming a place of doom for opposing teams.
Ivan Henjak and Chris O'Sullivan formed a strong halves partnership which brought top teams such as Canterbury, Parramatta and Manly undone during the year; the Parramatta match drawing a record Seiffert crowd of 17,407.
Sydney was starting to notice the club and in particular, head coach Don Furner, who was doing a fantastic job with a team that still lacked the depth of the 'big clubs'.
The team had grabbed enough wins to make a mid-week play-off for 5th spot against Souths, but were not good enough on the day and were beaten 23-4.
They grabbed their biggest ever win during the year, 44-12 vs Easts in round 8, Big Sam Backo burst onto the scene for the club, while the third grade side became the first Raiders team to make the finals, going down bravely to Wests 22-16 in the elimination semi-final.
The expectations on the Raiders shoulders at the beginning of the 1985 season were enormous, which is probably why so many were disappointed with the club's 10th placing at the end of the year.
Injuries to key players made it hard for the team, which dropped the last 8 matches of the season.
1985 had its memorable moments though, including a 26-12 pounding of Souths at a hostile Refern Oval, an unlucky 20-all tie with high-flyers Manly at Seiffert and a 20-10 victory at Newcastle over '85 grand finalists, St George.
The Reserves became the first Raiders team to make a Grand Final. Led by Alan McMahon, the Raiders led 16-4 but were pegged back by St George in the second half and were a little unlucky in the end, going down 22-16 in a thrilling finish.
NEW STARS ON THE SCENE
1986 saw the big names come down to the ACT in the shape of Mal Meninga and Gary Belcher (Brisbane Souths), Gary Coyne (Wynnum/Manly) and John 'Chicka' Ferguson (Newtown). 1989 GF hero Steve Jackson also arrived from Mackay.
The new signings did not bring immediate success however, with the club only tasting victory 8 times throughout the year.
Gary Belcher stamped himself as a future star, filling in for the injured Mick Aldous at fullback for most of the year and scoring 11 tries. He would be rewarded, along with Meninga, with both Queensland and Australia rep jerseys that year.
The Raider pack was becoming a feared one, Sam Backo busted the line regularly, while Dean Lance and Gary Coyne bashed opposing players with bruising defence.
Highlights include a 19-12 win over '86 premiers Parramatta at Seiffert and a semi-final appearance in the midweek Panasonic Cup competition.
FIRST TASTE OF THE BIG TIME
The Raiders 1st grade team lived up to its promise in 1987, reaching the finals for the first time and going all the way to the Grand Final.
They hit top gear at the business end of the season, crushing top opposition on the way to the finals. They bounced back from the first semi-final loss to Easts to hammer Souths 46-12, then exacted revenge on the Roosters in the preliminary final, winning 32-24.
Mal Meninga had an unfortunate run-in with a goalpost early in the year, badly breaking his arm, but returned to the paddock in the latter stages of the season sporting that famous arm-guard, and inspired his teammates greatly.
He scored the sealer in the preliminary final vs Easts, trampling Rooster David Trewella in an unforgettable surge to the tryline. The Raiders would go down gallantly 18-8 to the experienced Manly side in the big one in heatwave conditions at the SCG, but the platform for future glory had been set.
1987 saw Laurie Daley make his first grade debut.
CHANGE AT THE HELM
1988 saw former coach Don Furner step down and Tim Sheens take his place at the helm of the now powerful Raiders team.
Once again they made the finals, but could not repeat the previous season's heroics, pipped by eventual premiers Canterbury 19-18 in the first semi-final and then downed by Balmain 14-6 in a controversial minor semi-final at the new Sydney Football Stadium.
The team finished with a league-leading 596 points at an impressive average of 27 points per game.
1988 saw a young Laurie Daley stamp his class on the first grade side, 'Chicka' Ferguson was now a crowd favourite, scoring 19 tries for the season.
Ricky Stuart and Glen Lazarus both made their first grade debut for the club and Gary Belcher, filling in as goalkicker for Meninga who broke his arm again, scored a club record 218 points for the year.
1989 saw the Canberra Raiders post a remarkable end of season 9-game winning streak, climaxing in one of the greatest Rugby League Grand Final victories of all-time. Finishing in fourth spot, the Raiders created history by becoming the first team to win a premiership from outside the ladder's top 3 and the first team to take the Winfield Cup away from Sydney.
The Green Machine proceeded to hammer Cronulla, Penrith and minor premiers Souths on an unstoppable finals march to the big game. Their opponents would be Balmain who were in top form and hungry for victory after their bitter grand final defeat the previous season, but the Raiders had a hunger of their own, fuelled by the passionate support of the fans and the fact that they had been "written off" by most pundits.
The Raiders looked the better team for the main part of the Grand Final but trailed late in the match, until John Ferguson scored an unforgettable match-saving try after receiving an overhead pass from the heavily-bandaged Laurie Daley.
With the scores locked at 14-all and the Tigers shell-shocked at letting certain premiership glory slip out of their grasp, extra time was always going to be in the Raiders favour.
Tigers hooker Ben Elias could only watch in horror as his attempt at field goal cannoned off the crossbar, before Chris O'Sullivan edged the green machine ahead with a field goal of his own. In the dying stages of the match, replacement Steve Jackson took a Mal Meninga pass and left half the Balmain side strewn on the ground in an incredible 30-metre charge to the tryline.
GREEN MACHINE JUGGERNAUT
After the emotions experienced with 1989's Grand Final victory, 1990 started with a tinge of sadness with Ivan Henjak and Grand Final hero Steve Jackson both joining the Magpies.
It would not affect the performance of the team however, opening the year with a Channel 10 Challenge Final win over the Penrith Panthers. The 1990 season would turn out to be the most successful in the club's history, finishing minor premiers in all 3 grades and appearing in all 3 Grand Finals.
The Raiders took on the up-and-coming Broncos outfit at Lang Park for Grand Final rights, handing them a 32-4 thrashing and proceeding to meet the Panthers in the big one.
The Presidents Cup team started Grand Final day off with a win over the Dragons, the reserves were unfortunately pipped by the Broncos, but the First Grade side proved too strong for Penrith, avenging their 30-12 semi-final defeat and taking back-to-back titles with an 18-14 victory.
1990 was a banner year for Mal Meninga, who scored 17 tries and kicked 72 goals for 212 points overall, including a whopping 38 points in the 66-4 thrashing of the Roosters at Bruce Stadium in April.
GUNNING FOR THE TREBLE
The Raiders were now dominating the competition and the Nation's Capital. TV ads, public appearances, everything was now a shade of green throughout the ACT and Queanbean. The Raiders were competition heavyweights and forcing other teams to change they way they played the game.
The club lost 3 legends prior to season's kickoff; Dean Lance and John Ferguson retired, while Chris O'Sullivan went to England to play for Warrington.
Financial strife would rock the Raiders in 1991 when the club was found to have exceeded the salary cap and fined heavily.
Mal Meninga, Bradley Clyde, Laurie Daley, Ricky Stuart and Steve Walters were all offered substantial contracts at other clubs, but took big pay cuts and remained loyal to the Raiders and the Canberra community, who had raised a heap of money for the club during the 'Save a Raider' fundraising drive.
Despite the turmoil that surrounded the club for months, the Raiders performed admirably in the finals and went on to make the Grand Final for the 3rd year in a row but the strain of a long, hard season showed as they were outmuscled by a hungry Penrith outfit 19-12.
A NEW BEGINNING
1992 saw the Raiders enter the second decade of their history and in a way, signalled a new starting point for the club.
The Raiders financial turmoil took its toll on the club in the pre-season, and more than a dozen players were forced to leave, among them Glen Lazarus, Nigel Gaffey, Paul Martin, Mark Bell and David Barnhill.
Coach Tim Sheens knew the hard task that lay ahead prior to season's kick off: "My main concern at the moment is to get a football side put back together after starting with what was basically a new club.....It's going to take six games, eight games, ten games or a season to get these kids out of A-Grade mode and into playing grade."
The side still possessed much talent and were together capable of another successful year, but when injuries sidelined players such as Gary Belcher, Ricky Stuart, Laurie Daley and new recruit Phil Blake early in the season, the side's lack of depth was exposed and they couldn't fully compete with the big guns.
They finished the season with a 10-12 record and missed the finals for the first time since 1986.
RETURN TO FORM
After the disappointment of 1992 subsided, the Raiders were tipped by many to bounce back and once again challenge for the title in '93.
A shaky first half of the season created a few doubts amongst the observers, but when the Green Machine embarked on a stunning end of season winning streak, which included big wins over eventual Grand Finalists St George and Brisbane, they were again the hot tip for the premiership.
With only 2 weeks to go until the finals, champion halfback Ricky Stuart, who was enjoying one of his best ever seasons, suffered a horrific ankle injury during the second half of Canberra's record-breaking 68-0 thrashing of Parramatta at Bruce Stadium.
The club remained positive in the public eye, but the loss of Stuart had dented the side's confidence significantly, and they were duly thrashed by the Bulldogs in the last round of the premiership. The team hobbled into the finals, but they had lost their attacking spark with their chief playmaker on the sideline.
They copped a one-two punch from St George (31-10) and Brisbane (30-12) in their two finals fixtures and a promising season came to a heart-breaking and abrupt end.
BIG MAL EXITS A WINNER
The Raiders looked every bit as good on paper in 1994 as they did the previous year, all they needed was a little luck on the injury front.
They got it, and with a host of stars on deck throughout the season, the side rattled up a club record 9-game winning streak and finished the regular season with the then all-time records of 779 points and 146 tries scored.
The Major Semi Final against minor premiers Canterbury was one of the all-time classics. With the scores tied at 18-all at the end of 80 minutes thanks to a David Westley try on the stroke of full time, the normally unfallable Ricky Stuart missed 2 field goal attempts, before Bulldog winger Darryl Halligan slotted a one-pointer with only a minute remaining on the clock. After 100 minutes of desperation football, players from both sides were left strewn across the paddock, exhausted. Bulldogs prop Martin Bella summed up what most of the players were probably thinking after the match: "I would rather have lost than have to play a (mid-week) replay."
In the qualifyer played the following week, the Raiders proved to good for North Sydney, who had scraped home by a point the previous Saturday against defending premiers Brisbane, and went on to face the Bulldogs in the Grand Final. They now had a chance to send retiring captain Mal Meninga out with a premiership.
The dominant way in which they did it was unexpected. Right from the opening kick-off, when Martin Bella spilled the ball and put the Raiders on the attack, Canberra dominated. Veteran Paul Osborne, who had received a late call-up to replace the suspended John Lomax, set up two first-half tries, while Meninga capped a wonderful afternoon and career by taking an intercept late in the game and racing away for a try. The final scoreline read 36-12 and the Raiders had secured their third premiership in stellar fashion.
SUPER LEAGUE MOVES IN
The Raiders entered the post-Meninga era with a side brimming with a good mix of youth and experience. Injuries at various stages to key players forced coach Tim Sheens to blood new talent such as Luke Davico, who had taken up Rugby League only 5 years prior.
April 1995 saw the biggest story in nearly 100 years of Rugby League hit the press. A rebel competition, to be run by the powerful Murdoch Group, was planned for 1996 and 10 players from the Raiders signed lucrative contracts.
Other clubs followed suit, and the ARL responded by cancelling then current representative contracts. The Super League story dominated the League press for months and despite the unrest, the Raiders managed to play their most successful regular season ever. They finished on top of the ladder, equal with Manly and had only lost 2 games all season.
After downing Brisbane 14-6 in a thrilling quarter final at Lang Park, the Raiders progressed straight to the preliminary final, where they would meet the Bulldogs yet again. But this time a hungry Canterbury outfit would not be denied, playing superb football to stun the raging favourites 25-6. They would go on to defeat competition favourites Manly in the Grand Final.
1995 saw Steve Walters notch up a club record 216 club games for the Raiders.
NOA CARVES 'EM UP
With the launch of the Super League season pushed back until 1997, the Raiders set about trying to step back up to the plate and mount another challenge for the title.
Fijian flyer Noa Nadruku returned to his brilliant best, scoring a league-leading 21 tries for the season, including an amazing mid season 8-match run in which he netted 10 tries.
The Raiders put lesser teams to the sword in 1996, but often struggled with the top weights.
They did well enough to get into 6th position, but were downed 16-14 in the first week of the finals by St George, who were beginning their own remarkable run to the Grand Final.
SUPER LEAGUE KICKS OFF
The rebel competition fielded 10 teams in its one season, and the Raiders were expected by many to be challenging for the champions trophy at season's end.
But after 6 rounds and only one unconvincing win over newcomers Hunter to show, the pressure was well and truly on the club and rookie coach Mal Meninga to perform.
The team responded to the adversity, and won 10 of their remaining 12 regular season matches to finish in third position overall.
They posted a big win over Penrith at Bruce Stadium in the finals, but two losses to Cronulla at Shark Park saw them exit the premiership race.
Brisbane would go on to soundly defeat the Sharks in the Grand Final and the Super League and ARL competitions merged to form the National Rugby League in 1998.
20 TEAMS - ONE PRIZE
The league world breathed a collective sigh of relief when the segmented competitions were brought together again in 1998.
Canberra junior Mark McLinden burst onto the scene, tearing apart opposition defences on his way to winning the NRL's Rookie of the Year award, as well as the Raiders player of the Year.
Leading the club in tries in '98, McLinden left no doubts as to his ability and was hailed as a future superstar by coaches and journalists.
The Raiders had a winning but inconsistent season, posting a number of memorable wins over tougher opponents, but falling over against teams they were expected to beat on more than one occasion.
They posted a convincing 17-4 home win over Manly in the first week of the finals and then went down the following week to NRL newcomers Melbourne at Olympic Park, ending their 98 campaign.
'OLD FIRM' ALL BUT GONE
With salary cap restrictions biting the club hard, the Raiders released two of the clubs all-time greats in Brad Clyde and Ricky Stuart, who both took on contracts at the Bulldogs. The decision was an unpopular one with many of the fans and sponsors.
Brett Hetherington joined the Cowboys, and Luke Priddis moved to the Broncos, leaving a big hole in the Raiders armour.
The Raiders played with plenty of heart, opening their account with a good home win against the Broncos and in round 8 playing out a thrilling draw against Newcastle, with Luke Williamson calmly slotting a field goal on the final siren to level the scores at 21-all.
History shows that the Raiders fell one point short of a finals spot in '99, after going down to Penrith on the second-last weekend of the regular season.
The season was one of the most closely-fought in history, with the 8th-placed Brisbane Broncos finishing on 32 points, the most ever in a 26-round competition.
2000 would see three more club legends go at season's end, with Laurie Daley set to retire, and David Furner and Brett Mullins set to leave to the English competition.
The trio played their last match in Canberra against the Roosters in round 23. The Raiders played inspiring football, thrashing the eventual Grand Finalists 40-12, with Mullins scoring a double, Furner kicking 6 goals and Daley having a hand in everything.
The team finished in 4th spot and blew Penrith off the park 34-16 in their qualifying final at Canberra Stadium, booking a semi-final clash with the Roosters at the SFS. The Penrith match ended in controversy however, with star players Simon Woolford, Jason Croker and Andrew McFadden all charged and consequently suspended for dangerous throws.
The Roosters were always going to be tough, but without their suspended trio the Raiders couldn't muster the attacking spark needed to match them. Down 32-0 with time running out, captain Daley made an emotional plea to his players to dig deep and try and salvage something from the wreckage.
They responded, and although the game was well and truly out of their grasp, they managed to lift and score two late tries, with Mark McLinden scoring their second off a trademark Daley grubber kick. The Roosters players formed a guard of honour for Daley, who received a standing ovation from the crowd as he walked from the field for the last time. Daley would later be immortalised in bronze at Canberra Stadium.
2001 was most definitely a season of extreme ups and downs for the Raiders.
On the upside, Parramatta recruit Clinton Schifcofske filled the vacant fullback spot perfectly and played the best season of his career, scoring a club record 245 points (102 goals, 10 tries, 1 fg) and taking out both the club's Player's Player and Best Player awards. The club also blooded plenty of young talent during the season, with Ryan O'Hara, Troy Thompson, Joel Monaghan, James Evans and Michael Robertson all gaining valuable first grade experience.
One of the most memorable matches in club history took place at Canberra Stadium on June 24, when the Raiders staged a stunning come-from-behind victory over the Roosters, after losing 4 players during the match to injury and Jason Croker playing on with badly damaged knee and ankle ligaments.
On the down, injuries plagued the club before and during the season as they limped to 9 wins and an 11th placing on the ladder. They managed back-to-back victories only twice during the season, but ended with a double that gave them confidence heading into 2002 - hammering Brisbane 40-18 at ANZ Stadium and Melbourne 32-6 at Canberra Stadium.
Local junior Andrew McFadden joined the Eels and Lesley Vainikolo took up an offer from UK club Bradford, while head coach Mal Meninga stood down, with former Bradford coach Matthew Elliott taking over the reigns for 2002.2002 - present
THE '5-YEAR PLAN'
2002 saw a new coaching staff begin their quest to turn around the fortunes of the team on the field.
Head coach Matthew Elliott and his support staff designed a 5-year plan to once again see the Raiders back on top as the number one Rugby League team in the world.
The team was looking to jump out of the blocks hard and gain some early momentum for the season ahead, but after 7 rounds the team had only registered one win, prompting many pundits to write off the Raiders as likely wooden-spooners.
Off the field, the Canberra District Rugby League assumed full control of the club once more when News Limited sold its 50 per cent share in the club in April.
The team bounced back with a 36-10 win over the Sharks at Canberra Stadium in round 8 and eventually climbed back into the finals frame, courtesy of their excellent home record. The salary cap breach that saw the Bulldogs lose 37 competition points opened up a spot in the top 8 for the Raiders, who went on to face the Warriors in a qualifying final in New Zealand.
The Raiders, with nothing to lose and everything to gain, stuck it to the powerful New Zealand outfit for a good part of the match, but couldn't hang on, going down admirably 36-20, with five-eighth Michael Monaghan playing a leading role and his brother Joel scoring a double.
The season also saw an emotional Canberra Stadium farewell to club legend Ken Nagas, who retired mid-season after succumbing to an ongoing knee problem.
A NEW FORCE EMERGING
The Raiders unveiled a new playing strip in 2003, with a 'return to the roots' type design, restoring the blue and gold colours of ACT representative sport and reverting to a more original lime green coloured jersey. The club also recruited more Parramatta stars, with Brad Drew, Ian Hindmarsh and Adam Mogg joining Michael Hodgson and Clinton Schifcofske in the Nation's Capital.
On the field, the Raiders had their best season since 1995 (16 wins, 620 points scored); the 'travelling blues' from seasons past swept aside as the team won all but 1 regular-season road match on the way to a top-4 finish and eventually a semi-final spot, in which they went down 17-16 to the Warriors in one of the most thrilling matches of the season.
Joel Monaghan emeged as one of the league's most potent try-scoring weapons, notching up 21 tries, including 4 in the Raiders 51-16 thashing of Manly at Brookvale Oval.
It was a highly-successful season for the club, taking out both the SG Ball and Premier League titles and coming within a whisker of knocking Parramatta off their perch as NSWRL Club Champions since 1997.
FAREWELL 'MUSS' AND 'STATUE'
Expectations on the Raiders were high after a successful 2003, but this would be a mixed year for the club.
The Raiders qualified for their third straight finals series, but only by the skin of their teeth with an unflattering 11-13 win-loss record.
Plagued by injury and suspension during the season, the Green Machine appeared out of finals contention when they lost to the Sydney Roosters 22-38 at Canberra Stadium in Round 24. But results went their way and the Raiders stole eighth spot with a crushing 62-22 win over Souths in the final match of the regular season.
In hindsight though, it was a spine-tingling 30-29 victory over the Warriors at Canberra Stadium in Round 20 that saved Canberra’s season. The Raiders came back from a 10-point deficit and fullback Clinton Schifcofske kicked two field goals - one in golden point extra time – to seal an incredible victory.
There was some disappointment for fans when club stalwarts Ruben Wiki and Luke Davico farewelled the Raiders at the end of the season. But in recognition of the club’s commitment to junior talent, a number of players made their NRL debuts in 2004 - Todd Carney, Terry Campese, Josh Miller, Alan Rothery, Nathan Smith and Marshall Chalk.
The Raiders also ended their representative drought of recent seasons, prop Ryan O’Hara picked to start for NSW in the opening State of Origin.
In the juniors, the year was highlighted by the selection of four players in the Australian Schoolboys team – Michael Dobson, Luke Jay, Cy Lasscock and Steve McLean. Carney and David Milne were also selected for the junior Kangaroos.
The Raiders embarked on a big recruiting campaign for season 2005, signings highlighted by former Australian Test players Jason Smith and Matt Adamson as well as Craig Frawley and Lincoln Withers.
RAIDERS EARN RESPECT IN TOUGH SEASON
When the undefeated Raiders shot to the top of the National Rugby League ladder after Round 5, they would not have been able to predict the misfortune to follow.
What started so promisingly ended in disappointment as a crippling injury toll contributed the Raiders missing the finals in 2005.
The Raiders began the season is sensational form. Highlighted by a 24-16 win over the Roosters in Round 5 – their first over the Bondi club in eight matches – the Raiders won their opening four games.
The Raiders were flying high, no win more inspirational than a 26-18 comeback victory over the Panthers at Penrith in Round 9. The Raiders had trailed 18-0 after 18 minutes.
Injuries were already starting to add up, props Ryan O’Hara and Michael Weyman both out for the season. In all the Raiders would use 30 players in the 2005 NRL season.
Suspensions were also frustrating, skipper Simon Woolford receiving a controversial 8-match ban for a lifting tackle on Melbourne’s Billy Slater.
While players fell, others lifted. Josh Miller and Troy Thompson stepped up to establish themselves as leaders of the pack, the two front rowers shared the Player of the Year award at season’s end.
Wins were few and far between in the second round, but they were memorable. There was a thrilling 23-22 victory over eventual grand finalists the North Queensland Cowboys in Round 16, followed by an upset 26-18 win over competition leaders Parramatta in Round 19.
Three players – Jason Smith, Alan Tongue and Adam Mogg – played on with fractures in their hands as the Raiders struggled to field a team in the final few rounds. Despite the adversity, the 2005 Raiders showed a lot of grit and determination.
In the lower grades, the Raiders won the Under 18 SG Ball title and fell one game short of the Premier League grand final.
RAIDERS FAREWELL SIX OF THE BEST
The Raiders began 2006 with a season full of promise after dismantling the Manly Sea Eagles 27-14 in front of a packed house at Brookvale Oval in round one, but what followed next was two of the darkest weekends in the clubs history, with the Raiders thumped in a Premiership record 70-32 score line by the Newcastle Knights in round two, followed by another 56-20 thumping at the hands of the Sydney Roosters in round three.
What was to come next though was an inspiring string of performances that fully encompassed the Green Machine spirit, with a return to the winners circle courtesy of a golden point win against Penrith the following week, and a fantastic 18-14 last minute win two weeks later at home against the Warriors.
The Raiders then had their chance to beat the eventual premiers Brisbane two weeks later after their first bye, but blew a seemingly unbeatable 18-0 lead to go down narrowly 30-28.
This narrow loss kicked the Raiders back into gear though and they went on to win four out of their next six encounters, including another golden point win against the North Queensland Cowboys courtesy of a long range Todd Carney field goal.
Losses to the Storm and Parramatta threatened to derail the Green Machine’s journey towards the semi finals, but four big wins against the Roosters (Rd 16, 42-10), Tigers (Rd 19, 20-18), Dragons (Rd 20, 31-12) and Broncos (Rd 22, 30-18) at Canberra Stadium gave the Raiders the self-belief that they could have a serious crack at the NRL semi-final series.
The Tigers match in round 19 was the third golden point win for the Raiders of the season, and they increased that to four just a few weeks later, when Carney was again the hero in the return match between the two clubs at Campbelltown Stadium, confirming the Raiders rule as the golden point kings.
The final home match of the season was an emotional night for the Raiders, as 20,000 people turned out to farewell six of the clubs favourite sons, with Clinton Schifcofske, Simon Woolford, Jason Smith, Adam Mogg, Michael Hodgson and the 300 game veteran Jason Croker all playing at Canberra Stadium for the last time.
Despite losing that match in a close fought 22-18 encounter, the Raiders narrowly defeated a resurgent Sharks outfit 26-24 in the last round to finish an impressive seventh on the NRL ladder at the end of the regular season.
The Raiders were then eliminated from the competition by a red hot Bulldogs outfit the following week by 30-12 in horrendous conditions at Telstra Stadium, as Coach Matt Elliott said farewell to the club after six years at the helm of the Green Machine.
Raiders lock Alan Tongue was named player of the year for the club after breaking the NRL’s all time tackling record by making 1087 tackles, while other award winners were Adrian Purtell (Rookie of the year), Jason Smith (Clubman of the year), and Clinton Schifcofske (Coaches award).
HENRY ARRIVES IN CANBERRA
In 2007 the Raiders welcomed a new Head Coach with Neil Henry joining his former club from the North Queensland Cowboys. Henry brought a new attitude and direction to the club with a focus on attacking play and ball movement.
Although the Green machine failed to make the finals in Henry’s debut season at the helm they did show signs of what lied ahead for the future, with some resounding wins which showed the Green Machine still had plenty to offer the competition.
In round three the Raiders ushered in the newly scheduled Monday night football with a resounding 48-18 win over the Newcastle Knights, reinforcing their showing as one of the best at home teams in the NRL.
They backed this up with wins against the Roosters (37-28), Panthers (34-18) and the Rabbitohs (16-10), before a memorable 30-6 win over the then high flying St George-Illawarra Dragons.
Unfortunately the team could not string enough wins together in the back end of the season to finish in the top eight and although they finished 14th the scene was set for a tilt at the finals in 2008.
The 2007 player of the year was the stoic prop Scott Logan who picked up the award for an outstanding season in his comeback year to the NRL. After a stint in the English Super League Logan returned to Australia to the Raiders and led the team up front and in the process gave some valuable experience to young prop forwards Dane Tilse and Michael Weyman.
UPS AND DOWNS POLARISE RAIDERS
If you wanted to write a soap opera about one of the Canberra Raiders seasons than 2008 would have been the perfect script. A host of off-field and on-field events took place over the course of the season which defined the Raiders as a club and it seemed the team came together even closer each time they were faced with a new adversity.
After a loss to the Knights in round one the Raiders signaled their intentions in rounds two and three with wins against the Panthers and Dragons to start their season strongly, before some early season jitters saw them start to slip down the NRL ladder.
It took the actions of an individual to spark the Raiders into gear, with the Green Machine facing a huge challenge when promising junior Todd Carney was stood down from playing duties after a string of off-field incidents.
When Carney was sacked a few weeks after his final indiscretion the Raiders needed a new leader to steer them around the park and it came in the form of Queanbeyan junior Terry Campese, who stepped up to the plate and delivered a string of performances which finally showed the promise and talent the Raiders coaching staff new he had.
The Green Machine was starting to hit top gear once again before a second bombshell hit, with news that second year coach Neil Henry was saying adieu at season end to return to North Queensland.
Henry’s announcement was a shock to the playing group and staff and threatened to once again derail the Raiders season, but the swift appointment of David Furner as the future Head Coach and Henry’s assurance that he would stay on until seasons end was all the playing group needed to hear to maintain their focus on reaching the finals.
In the back half of the season all of this controversy provided the spark that the Raiders needed to succeed on field and the side became the toast of the league as they dealt with all comers.
Wins against the Titans (46-4), Knights (38-18) and Rabbitohs (40-25) were all highlights, but the main course was saved for a chilli Sunday afternoon at Canberra Stadium in round 22.
On that day the Raiders showed their fans they meant business with a record breaking 74-12 win over the Penrith Panthers. It was that man Campese who starred on the day scoring four tries and kicking 10 goals to score 36 points, falling just two points short of Mal Meninga’s club record for points in a match. It was only the decision of Captain Alan Tongue to give rookie halfback Marc Herbert the final kick which prevented Campese reaching the milestone.
The Raiders good form however came at a cost with injuries starting to build at the wrong end of the season as the side limped into the semi-finals series in sixth position. The loss against the Sharks in week one spelt the end of the road for the Raiders in 2008 but they would now be known as the new entertainers of the league.
A NEW ERA DAWNS FOR RAIDERS
Once again the club entered a new era in 2009 with club legend David Furner appointed as the new Head Coach, as he realised a boy hood dream from ballboy, to player and then coach.
Furner’s appointment signaled stability to the Raiders organisation as none questioned his loyalty to the club as he started to groom his young chargers for the long haul, vowing to stick by the club at all costs.
The Raiders opened their fountain of youth in 2009 with six players making their NRL debuts, signaling the intentions of the Raiders to focus on developing their own talent for the future.
Josh Dugan, Jarrod Croker, Shaun Fensom, Travis Waddell, Daniel Vidot and Josh McCrone all took their chances when they got them and showed maturity beyond their years to prove the club is in safe hands.
The arrival to the Raiders of David Shillington and Bronson Harrison gave the Raiders forward pack some starch and ushered in a new era of representative stars for the club in a throwback to the glory days of men in green playing representative football.
Joel Monaghan, Terry Campese, Alan Tongue, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Shillington and Harrison all played at representative level in 2009 and dispelled the myth that Raiders players are ignored at this level.
As a team the Raiders were seen as underachievers in 2009 after their efforts the previous season, but those close to the club know the importance of the season as a whole and what was achieved from within the change room.
Publicly the Raiders showed what they have to offer with big wins against Warriors (38-12), Storm (26-16), Broncos (56-0) and Dragons (24-12), but privately they started to believe in themselves and this looked to see the club in safe hands going forward.
THE DREAM MACHINE
The Green Machine became the Dream Machine towards the back end of 2010, with the talented bunch of local products and rising stars defying the critics to finish seventh on the NRL competition ladder.
Mid-season the Raiders looked anything like finals contenders, as they threw away big leads over the Wests Tigers and South Sydney Rabbitohs at home, but a road trip to Manly turned things around for the team as they went on a heart stopping run through the back end of the season to win five straight matches and qualify for the finals.
The dream continued into week one of the finals series with the Raiders first finals win since 2000, as they fought off a hostile home crowd and a fast finishing Panthers outfit to hold on to a memorable 24-22 win.
The build up to the second weekend of finals action saw the Raiders galvanize the Canberra community, as they sold out their home final against the Wests Tigers inside 48 hours.
The capacity crowd at Canberra Stadium was a buzz of emotion and anticipation for 80 minutes, but the home fans were left wondering what could have been, as a late penalty goal from Jarrod Croker sailed wide of the posts and the Tigers held on for a 26-24 win.
Despite the result the fans walked away with their heads held high, with the knowledge that their young team was on the rise and expected to go even further in 2011.
Individually the Raiders had plenty of stars in 2010, with David Shillington (Australia and Qld), Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Australia, NSW, Country Origin), Bronson Harrison (New Zealand), Joel Monaghan (NSW) and Josh Dugan (Country Origin) all playing representative football.
David Shillington also completed a huge back end of the season with the prestigious Meninga Medal, along with the Dally M prop of the year award.Source raiders.com.au