Nicholas Janzen, NRL.com
Finals football is still well in the grasp of the on-the-slide Canberra Raiders – but only if they totally believe in their ability.
That's the message from hard-hitting back-rower Joel Edwards, who says the Green Machine can make a significant impression on season 2013 despite slumping to 11th on the table following back-to-back defeats.
"We believe in ourselves and we know our potential but in the last two weeks we feel like we've been our own worst enemy," Edwards, quickly forging a reputation as one of the most ferocious defenders in the National Rugby League, tells NRL.com.
"We've got to focus on us and worry about what we can control, and if we do that… who knows?"
On Sunday the Raiders face a similarly desperate Cowboys side in the nation's capital in a battle that could have a huge influence on the final make-up of the top eight. The North Queenslanders, currently 12th, will be feeling confident entering the match, following back-to-back wins and having won nine of their 11 recent clashes with Canberra. Edwards, though, isn't overly worried by the visitors' form and quality roster – he insists he's more focused on his own side.
"Everyone’s a challenge in the NRL – you've got to respect everyone," Edwards, who moved from Newcastle to Canberra at the start of this season, says.
"They've got two great forwards in James Tamou and Matt Scott – they're quality players – then you've got Johnathan Thurston and all the other players and they're all quality across the park.
"But you've got to turn up on the day and put your best foot forward.
"We need to control the ball and be disciplined as a side. We've addressed that and we'll definitely be turning up on Sunday and making sure we give it our all and play for each other and that we’re disciplined and control the footy."
Edwards, a 14-game representative for Canberra this season, has proven an astute purchase by the Raiders – he's already clocked 1067 metres and made 329 rib-tickling tackles in just 754 minutes' game time – after he controversially rejected a deal to stay at Newcastle.
Edwards opted to pursue other options and ultimately ended up at the Raiders, but the 185cm, 100kg back-rower is more concerned about looking forward than reflecting on the past.
"There was an opportunity in Canberra and to work closely with Dave Furner and the assistant coaches and the squad down here was an opportunity I couldn't pass up," Edwards, who played 45 games for the Knights before moving south, says.
"Getting to know Dave [Furner] on and off the field, I saw the opportunity and the young squad that's here and I wanted to be a part of the club. I was looking forward to coming down here."
The three-year deal has so far worked beautifully for Edwards and the Raiders, whose forward pack is currently missing the services of Brett White, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs and Joe Picker. The red-headed back-rower, however, says he's not getting carried away thinking about the future and being a potential leader in Canberra.
"I’m 25 in a couple of weeks and I'm just focusing on tomorrow," Edwards, whose hit on Jarryd Hayne would make a worthy candidate in the final of 'best tackle of all-time' (find it on YouTube), says.
"If I worry about what I can control – and that's what I do on the field – the rest will take care of itself. I’m down here in Canberra, I’m loving the lifestyle and the people and really enjoying it. I can't speak highly enough of Canberra and the Canberra Raiders organisation."
Edwards is determined to help his side rebound this week and steady their finals campaign. After a taste of September football a couple of years ago, Edwards wants to experience it once again – at his new home. And he thinks they're every chance of doing it successfully.
"It wasn't last year but it was the year before [when I played finals]," Edwards says.
"We played Melbourne in Melbourne in the first week of the semis and that was the one and only time I've been a part of semi-final footy.
"I'd love to play semi-final footy again – that's what you play footy for, to go as far as you can and try to be the best side you can be. It's a bad feeling to not be there come semi-finals time but everyone's striving to play semi-final footy.
"I don't think anyone in the Raiders is thinking too much about the future, we've just got to turn up on Sunday and take it each week at a time – you can't go putting the cart before the horse.
"You've got to just focus on this week because if you get too far ahead of yourself all of a sudden you’re watching semi-final footy and you’re not a part of it."