Josh McCrone believes the Raiders must defeat the Wests Tigers in Round 16 if they are any chance of making the finals in 2014. Credit: Grant Trouville. Copyright: NRL Photos.
Halfback Josh McCrone admits it is almost case of "now or never" for the Raiders if they are to salvage their season ahead of their clash with the Tigers this Saturday.
With just four wins to show for their efforts so far in 2014, the Raiders are languishing in 14th on the NRL ladder, and can realistically only afford to drop just one of their remaining 10 games if they are to avoid missing back-to-back finals for the first time since 1985-86.
The last time the Raiders tasted finals football was back in 2012, when they won nine of their last 12 games to progress from 15th on the ladder to finish in sixth position and extend their season into the early weeks of September, disposing of the Sharks in the elimination semi-final before succumbing to the Rabbitohs a week later.
That run was kicked off the week after they suffered a 40-0 thrashing on home turf at the hands of the Tigers, in which Canberra fans booed their side from the field, and McCrone concedes it will take a winning streak of similar proportions for the Raiders to keep their dwindling finals hopes alive.
"We are going to need a similar sort of run with the predicament we're in at the moment," says McCrone.
"No one's really spoken about that, we're pretty keen to make our own history in 2014, but it is almost now or never for us, and it's going to have to start for us this weekend."
Despite going down 22-14 to the Bulldogs at the weekend, McCrone says there were plenty of positives for the Raiders to take out of the clash, in particular the performance of veteran prop David Shillington, who ran for 180 metres and made 18 tackles as the Green Machine's forwards went blow for blow with the biggest pack in the competition.
The Tigers young forwards have made a habit of ambushing more fancied packs this year, getting the better of the highly-rated South Sydney and Manly big men with a mixture of aggression and physicality, but McCrone is confident the likes of Shillington and his front-row partner Brett White can match the likes of NSW prop Aaron Woods and Kiwi Martin Taupau in the aggression stakes.
"’Shillo’ had an enormous game on the weekend for us and really stepped up and showed the form that got him all his Australian and Queensland caps so I'm sure he'll be primed for another big one," says McCrone.
"And Whitey's been very tough for us this year too, it doesn't take too much to fire him up so it'll be a good battle up front.
"We're under no illusions, it's going to be a tough game especially considering where they are on the ladder and the boys they've got coming back from State of Origin on a bit of a high.
"Aaron Woods is playing some decent footy so it's up to the whole pack, not just our older blokes to shut him down."