The Raiders have won six games in a row and are now just two wins away from a place in the grand final, but Canberra forward Tom Learoyd-Lahrs knows his team must lift to another level if this season is going to end with a premiership.
“We’ve definitely got another gear to go,” says Learoyd-Lahrs. “I think we’re a better side than we were at that stage of the season.
“We played games at the start of the year where we let ourselves down, let our fans down.
“To be able to win a couple of really big fixtures late in the season, in particular the semi final, it’s a good feeling.”
The last time the Raiders played the Rabbitohs it was the Canberra side who came off second best, with both Greg Inglis and Dave Taylor scoring doubles against them. Learoyd-Lahrs is expecting this match to be even tougher, especially with centre and goal-kicker Jarrod Croker missing due to injury.
“He’s a very hard player to replace,” he said. “He’s scored lots of tries and he’s also obviously a great goal kicker. We’ve got about 12 or 13 blokes who think they can kick, probably three are genuine.”
One player who stepped up last week against the Sharks was youngster Josh Papalli, who took on the misson of smothering Sharks captain Paul Gallen.
“I think it was great to see,” said Learoyd-Lahrs. “He’s certainly not intimidated by anyone. Gal is obviously renowned as an enforcer and we needed somebody out there to meet him head on and he was happy to do it. I think he did a great job, hopefully there’s a bit more of that in him this weekend.”
The Raiders meet the Rabbitohs this Saturday at ANZ Stadium with the winner progressing to face the Bulldogs in the grand final qualifier.