The Canberra Raiders have every right to feel unloved after the release of the 2013 National Rugby League Draw. But you can bet your bottom dollar coach David Furner is rubbing his hands together at the thought of flying “under the radar”.
The Raiders last won a premiership over 15 years ago. Ricky Stuart and Laurie Daley were the halves and Mal Meninga was their fearless captain. Furner was their goal kicking backrower.
Current skipper Terry Campese was still in primary school and Josh Dugan was barely four years old.
At that time, Canberra were the epitome of rugby league greatness.
Yet since then, the Green Machine have struggled to find continued success. For a long time, Canberra was the last place a professional football player wanted to go.
An NRL squad only have a small window to achieve success. The cycle begins, the squad is moulded and before long its disbanded. Many things need to go right during a torrid season and players need to click at the right time of year.
There is no reason to think that this Canberra team cant make a serious dent in the 2013 NRL season.
Josh Dugan, Jarrod Crocker and Shaun Fensom have all tasted premiership success for Canberra, albeit in the Toyota Cup competition.
Terry Campese returns to the team after a string of injuries and knows exactly what it takes to fire up this underrated squad. In 2010, Campese led the Raiders to week two of the playoffs.
The scary thing is, Canberra reached the finals in 2012 without him.
Players were forced to up the ante in his absence. The emergence of Reece Robinson, Josh Papalii and Jarrod Crocker cant be underestimated.
They definitely don’t hold the status of some players living in Sydney or even Brisbane. But rest assured these kids can play football.
A nice headache for Furner is what to do with the returning Campese.
Are Canberra a more dangerous outfit with the representative playing at lock?
If you are doubting Canberra’s chances in 2013, just remember where the Wests Tigers came from in 2005. Or where the young New Zealand Warriors came from in 2011.
There is a green tidal wave ready to burst next season.
The question is, can these kids go to a place this once mighty club hasn’t been since 1994?
If nothing else, expect a spike in Foxtel sales down in the nation’s capital.