NRL 1 year ago

Something special is building: Raiders

  • Something special is building: Raiders

    GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 26: Fans show their support during the round 16 NRL match between the Gold Coast Titans and the Canberra Raiders at Cbus Super Stadium on June 26, 2016 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

They haven't had this good a start to an NRL season in over a decade, and Canberra genuinely believe something special is happening at the club.

Few can put their finger on exactly what's changed this year, but a more mellow coach Ricky Stuart and his push for a more inclusive culture appears to be paying dividends.

The Raiders sit seventh on the ladder with a 8-1-6 win-draw-loss record, just three points outside the top four.

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Not since 2003 have they lost so few games after 16 rounds.

That year, they won 10 of their first 14 games and reached the semi-finals. It was also the last time they finished the season inside the top four.

"There's something special building here," club veteran Josh Papalii said.

"I think the boys really believe something's building for maybe finals footy or hopefully a grand final down the track.

"But we've got to obviously take it week by week; we're still trying to be consistent."

Papalii, who made his NRL debut with the Raiders in 2011, said Stuart was "pretty intense" when he first arrived in the nation's capital from Parramatta two years ago.

But the Queensland and Australian enforcer has noticed a change in recent times.

"I have," he said.

"As a former player for the Green Machine he's obviously very passionate about this club - you can sense it in videos where he talks about the green jersey and how much pride we need to take in it.

"He's won three premierships and played in a few grand finals, so hopefully we can repeat that era."

Winger Jordan Rapana, who only became a first-grade regular last season under Stuart's tutelage, agreed the club champion had mellowed out.

"Especially after a win, he's a lot nicer," Rapana laughed.

"He's a great coach and he's leading us in the right direction.

"We've got a good culture here. The more that we win, the stronger the culture is. It's a good environment to be in and the boys here a real tight."

The Raiders haven't played finals football since 2012.

They face cellar-dwellers Newcastle at GIO Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

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