Canberra's time is now: Tongue

Alan Tongue knows that Canberra’s best days lie ahead, but he insists the NRL’s hottest side isn’t about to let the momentum they’ve built up over the past two months slip away without a fight.<br><br>The Raiders’ captain has been with the club for more than 10 years and played in six separate finals series, yet even though a seventh September appearance is far from guaranteed this season Tongue believes the time is right to mount an unlikely premiership surge.<br><br>“Other than a few lean years we’ve usually been in contention for the finals but we’ve probably never had that extra something to go all the way or the momentum at the right time of year,” he told NRL.com today. <br><br>“In 2000 we finished fourth and we had another strong year in 2003 but couldn’t go on with it.<br><br>“But we’re starting to build our momentum going into the finals at the right time of year this time and I think that’s really important.<br><br>“I don’t think there were too many people that thought much of us at the start of this year but we realised that we had a strong squad – we just needed to get the best out of each other. <br><br>“It’s taken a little bit of time and I think that the future is looking very bright for us but at the same time we’re really keen to keep going this year and keep that confidence up that we’ve got at the moment.”<br><br>It has been a long time since the glory days of the early 1990s in the nation’s capital and although Canberra have long been renowned as fierce competitors, they have rarely been seen as premiership contenders since they last lifted the trophy in 1994.<br><br>Tongue, however, believes that is finally about to change.<br><br>“It’s an exciting time for the club,” he said. “People forget what we’ve been through to get to this point.<br><br>“I look back to 2006 when we lost a heap of players and a lot of experience – Clinton Schifcofske, Luke Davico, Simon Woolford, Jason Smith, Adam Mogg, Michael Hodgson – there was a heap of them that all left in one big hit and that was always going to be hard. <br><br>“We struggled the next year, which wasn’t surprising, and then just when we were starting to build again around Todd Carney we lost him as well. <br><br>“It’s been hard to get that consistency in the playing roster.<br><br>“It’s no secret that we rely heavily on our juniors and it takes time to replace them, but that’s starting to happen again now with guys like Josh Dugan there.<br><br>“There have been a couple of astute buys as well, in Bronson Harrison and David Shillington, who have been really outstanding for us. <br><br>“Bronson hasn’t missed a game since he came to the club and has barely missed a minute. Dave is in the best form of his career. <br><br>“Those additions, plus the juniors coming through, and some stability with the coaching – I think there is a lot to look forward to.”<br><br>The immediate task, however, is to take care of struggling North Queensland at Canberra Stadium this Saturday.<br><br>The Raiders sent a clear statement of intent with their second half dismantling of St George Illawarra last Sunday – their sixth win from seven games – but remain wary of suffering a similar mental letdown to that which has plagued Sydney Roosters over the past three weeks.<br><br>“That’s 100 per cent the case and we’ve already spoken about that,” Tongue affirmed. “But at the end of the day our season is still on the line. <br><br>“Our season has been on the line for the past five weeks… everybody understands that. We’re also under no illusions as to what we can expect.”<br><br>Tongue said it was crucial that the Raiders stuck with what has been working for them over the past two months but insisted there was no great secret to their sudden success.<br>&nbsp;<br>“We’re still sticking to the principles that we identified at the start of the year and are still working hard on those,” he said. <br><br>“I think confidence plays a big role with all teams as you go through a season. You have these patches. <br><br>“It’s a long season and we struggled there a little bit. We chopped and changed our halves. But I think Josh McCrone is starting to settle in at halfback now and is striking up a bit of a combination with ‘Campo’ (Terry Campese). <br><br>“That lets Josh Dugan work on the back of that. <br><br>“Right across the park I think everybody is getting a lot of quality and contributing little things – complementing one another. <br><br>“It took a while to click but mainly it’s that confidence that we’ve got in what we’re doing.”