Raiders out to become 'the new Eels'

Canberra prop Tom Learoyd-Lahrs has admitted that the club is using Parramatta’s stunning run to last year’s grand final as motivation ahead of tomorrow night’s season-defining clash with Canterbury at ANZ Stadium.<br><br>The Raiders face the daunting task of having to win all four remaining matches to sneak into the finals – a feat they haven’t achieved since the opening four rounds in 2005.<br><br>But Learoyd-Lahrs said that Parramatta’s thrilling run home 12 months ago had changed the thinking of every club and given him hope that the Raiders can do the same over the coming weeks.<br><br>“It’s a big ask but it’s certainly not impossible,” the NSW State of Origin forward said. “It’s not unheard of for teams to go on winning streaks at this time of year.<br>&nbsp;<br>“You saw what Parramatta did at the back end of last year.<br><br>“When you see a team string together wins like that and storm into the finals like Parramatta did last year, it certainly dispels any doubt in your head that you can do it.”<br><br>Learoyd-Lahrs said that if any of the three sides sitting four points out of the eight – Canberra, Parramatta and Newcastle – were in a position to launch a late surge into the finals it was the Raiders, who have won four of their past five games and produced a remarkable second-half comeback to upset Penrith last Monday night.<br><br>“Once you get that momentum, anything is possible,” he said. <br><br>“We lost a little bit of momentum against Melbourne (two weeks ago) but we’ve still won four from five so we’ve still got a bit of momentum there and our confidence after Monday night hasn’t wavered. <br><br>“We’re still confident in what we’re capable of. <br><br>“It’s just a matter of turning up each week and hopefully four from four turns into three from three and then two from two and we’re staring down the barrel of a finals berth.”<br><br>The Raiders’ task isn’t made any easier by a tough run home that sees them face the Bulldogs – who beat them 18-10 in Canberra in Round 16 – this weekend before games against St George Illawarra, North Queensland and Brisbane.<br><br>But Learoyd-Lahrs said it was important to put the job at hand into perspective.<br><br>“If you think about it – a four-game block isn’t that big of a picture,” he said. “If you give yourself a month to concentrate on, it’s very doable. And we’re all pretty focused. <br><br>“It’s still fresh in our minds that the Bulldogs came down here and beat us on our home turf no more than five or six weeks ago, so we know we’re in for a big game. <br><br>“We just have to take that mentality in there to be tough because we can’t afford to drop any more games.” <br><br>While the Raiders have played in fits and starts this season – twice giving up big leads against Wests Tigers and South Sydney – Learoyd-Lahrs’ confidence was soaring after they turned the table on Penrith on Monday night. Trailing 26-12 at half-time, Canberra scored three second-half tries to steal away with a 30-26 win.<br><br>“It’s a really good thing for our team to be on the right end of one of those comebacks rather than losing them like we were doing earlier in the year,” Learoyd-Lahrs said.<br><br>“There have been times in games when we’ve fallen asleep but to be able to claw our way back into the game on Monday night – hopefully we don’t put ourselves under that sort of pressure this weekend and can get off to a good start but it’s good to know we can come back if we have to.”<br><br><b>Late NRL news:</b><br><br>•&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Promising young hooker Anthony Mitchell will make his NRL debut for Parramatta against Brisbane tonight, coming into the squad in place of dumped playmaker Daniel Mortimer.<br><br>•&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Newcastle has suffered an enormous blow to their slim finals hopes with five-eighth Jarrod Mullen ruled out with broken ribs. Scott Dureau takes his place.<br><br>•&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;The Titans are sweating on the fitness of key players Preston Campbell and Greg Bird and forward Michael Henderson ahead of tomorrow night’s clash with North Queensland. Campbell and Henderson are suffering from a virus, while Bird is still struggling with a hamstring injury.