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It was late last year – around the time the Raiders finally began to win a few games – when David Furner first sat back and thought to himself: “I’m onto something good here.”<br><br>Potential is one thing and Furner had recognised the talent around him much earlier, but the newly appointed Canberra coach had too often seen sides labeled ‘potential champions’ only to self-destruct before ever fulfilling their ambitions.<br><br>“It was the back end of last year when we had some young players coming through and although they were a little bit inexperienced we certainly put together some pretty handy games,” Furner recalled ahead of tonight’s sudden death final at Canberra Stadium. <br><br>“We really wanted to build on that. I said at the start of this year that I would have been disappointed if we didn’t make the top eight.<br><br>“I know that a lot of people didn’t give us much of a chance but I knew there was something good happening here so you don’t really get bogged down in that. <br><br>“You just look at the squad you’ve got and the capabilities that they have and where you can end up as a team. <br><br>“It’s funny, we haven’t reflected too much. We’ve certainly been reminded of the position we were in heading into Round 18 but I’ve always had the belief in the squad and what it can achieve and the players are thriving on that.”<br><br>So impressive have the Raiders been over the past two months that it makes you wonder where that sort of form was hiding during the first half of the season.<br><br>Incredibly – given the hot form displayed by the likes of Josh Dugan, Terry Campese, Jarrod Croker and their monstrous forward pack of late – the Green Machine never sat higher than 11th on the premiership ladder in 2010 until Round 24 and only found themselves in the top eight once the entire time… at the end of Round 26.<br><br>But Furner said the challenges overcome by the club this season were all part of the learning process.<br><br>“It’s a tough competition and every week you need to take your opportunities to pick up those two points,” he said. <br><br>“We went through a few periods there where we had some losses in a row. It wasn’t so much the team – I knew the team was capable of winning those games – but we lacked a little bit of confidence. <br><br>“We learnt a lot through those games.<br><br>“I think the biggest thing is how the players responded in those circumstances – I don’t think there would have been too many people giving us an opportunity. <br><br>“But at the end of the day I still thought a good win was just around the corner and once you get that win it instills confidence and belief in the team itself. <br><br>“From that stage the players have driven themselves.”<br><br>It’s been quite a turnaround.<br><br>Written off as finals hopes 10 weeks ago, the Raiders head into tonight’s sudden death semi-final against Wests Tigers as firm favourites to move to within one game of the decider.<br><br>And although many believe this emerging side’s best days are yet to come, Furner said they’re not ready to pull stumps on 2010.<br><br>“Obviously when I first took on this role, I saw it as a long-term role,” he said. <br><br>“Everyone wants success and you want it immediately but at the same time you’ve got to understand the competition and the short turnarounds and putting everything into place… That takes time.<br><br>“People ask me if I’m excited about the future – well yes, I am excited. The excitement is in seeing the team really starting to gel – that’s what is exciting. <br><br>“But the game can be harsh and you need to take your opportunities when they’re there.<br><br>“For us, the past few months have been all about concentrating on week-to-week footy and I don’t think we’ll be getting ahead of ourselves even this week. <br><br>“But it’s just great to have a home semi. The town is buzzing and semi-final footy, as a football team, is where you want to be.”
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