2010 SEASON REVIEW: Canberra Raiders

Regular Season
Wins: 13
Losses: 11
Position: 7th
Home Record: 7 wins, 5 losses (=7th)
Away Record: 6 wins, 6 losses (=4th)

After Finals
Won 24-22 v Panthers and lost 26-24 v Wests Tigers to finish 6th

Best Winning Streak: 6 (Rounds 22-Finals Week One)
Longest Losing Streak: 4 (Rounds 14-17)
Players Used: 29
Player of the Year: David Shillington
Tries Scored (After 26 rounds): 88 (=9th)
Tries Conceded (After 26 rounds): 88 (=7th)

Wow. What a roller-coaster season the Raiders experienced. A young squad with an average age of 25 started 2010 with dreams of finals after a 13th-place finish in 2009. It seemed a long, uphill struggle was ahead, with many tipping they wouldn’t have the stamina to go the distance. And by Round 17, they were all but written off, sitting 13th on 14 points with a dismal 2-5 home record and having just gone down by 10 at home to the Roosters to make it four losses in a row.

But then the winds shifted in Canberra. They travelled to Brookvale and returned home with a hard-fought 24-22 win over the Sea Eagles; from there, they didn’t look back – their only loss for the remainder of the regular season coming in Round 21, away to Melbourne.

They were the underdog story of 2010 – going from seventh to be just knocked out by the Tigers two games out from the big one. It seems these days every season possesses a story such as theirs and Canberra’s run contained all the elements. They’re the team everyone was secretly going for – and they didn’t disappoint, as they knocked off competition heavyweights, minnows and everyone in between on their way to the semi-finals.

Where They Excelled… Don’t be misled into thinking the Raiders were complete pushovers who just got lucky; throughout the regular season they finished on top for average metres (1408.3) and scored the most tries through offloads (11) along with the Panthers, plus they were second in offloads (13.4 per game) and third for line-breaks (4.8) – this was a team that posed a real attacking threat.

It was their second half of the season that really shone however; from Round 14 to the semi-final they increased their tries scored by one per game (to 4.1), decreased tries conceded by one (to 3.3), decreased their error rate by two a game (to 10.7), upped their offloads by two, line-breaks by nearly one a game and were making an average 70 more metres per game.

Where They Struggled… Overall tackling was a problem, missing 36 a game (10th) – which probably was the main contributing factor to them conceding the same amount of tries as they scored.

They were also the worst in the competition under a high ball, defusing just 60 per cent of bombs put up to them.

When you consider their two finals matches were decided by just two, it shows the Raiders were more than capable of matching the big teams; they just struggled to shut others out.

Missing In Action… Captain Alan Tongue was the notable player plagued by injury; a niggling groin problem and later a calf tear restricted him to just 12 appearances.

Shaun Fensom had a barnstorming start to the year but a back injury put him on the sideline for five to six weeks and then after the Sea Eagles game he was absent because of an ankle injury.

Also, Joel Monaghan was out for the opening nine rounds with a thumb injury.

The full extent of how long Terry Campese will need to recover from his knee reconstruction is yet to be determined. The co-captain busted his ACL in the semi-final against the Wests Tigers and word is it will take from nine to 12 months before he’s back to full fitness.

Turning Point… Round 18 against the Sea Eagles. The week before it was very sorry home dressing room at Canberra Stadium after the Roosters had handed them their fourth straight loss. The victory the next week coincided with fullback Josh Dugan agreeing to terms to stay with the club, thus ending weeks of uncertainty as to where his future lay.

The Raiders, led by stand-in captain Terry Campese and Dugan, withstood a strong-finishing Manly to hold on for the win and turned their season around. The next week they absolutely thumped the Knights and began playing with a new belief, demonstrated in their ability to overcome half-time deficits to secure wins.

Best Games… The Raiders had two massive wins against the Knights (Round 19, 54-18) and Cowboys (Round 25, 48-4), but featured in plenty of other thrilling games throughout 2010.

Their two wins over minor premiers St George Illawarra continued the Dragons’ horror run against the Raiders, but it was their final round match against the Broncos at Suncorp that was the feather in their cap; the must-win game securing them a finals berth.

Worst Games… They had some heart-breaking, close losses, but the loss that really got under their skin was the only blip on their run into the finals; Round 21 against the Storm. The 36-12 lapse was played in horrendous conditions but it was Melbourne’s light-hearted treatment of the game – one player joking he’d been at the pub when receiving the call-up to play – as they went on to post a strong win, that really upset the Raiders. When every game counted for them as the final rounds were ticked off, it was hard to take a disappointing loss to the side unable to compete for points in 2010.

Hold Your Head High… Josh Dugan has been the name on everyone’s lips, and rightly so. The fullback earned himself a Country jersey and finished the season with 13 tries, 20 line-breaks, 13 offloads and an average of 158 metres per game; but it was his whopping 192 tackle-breaks that made him so effective.

Terry Campese’s stepping up to the plate and taking control at the end of the season was also a catalyst in the Raiders going as far as they did. But the entire Canberra backline deserves a mention. They showed they are stars of the future. Jarrod Croker took over kicking duties with aplomb in Round 15, finishing with 84 per cent accuracy, while also relieving some pressure on Campese. He also contributed five tries, nine line-breaks, seven line-break assists and six try-assists. Daniel Vidot carried his weight with 16 tries, 118 metres on average, 15 line-breaks and 68 tackle-breaks.

Coach David Furner says… “I thought off the back of last year there, where we really found some form towards the end… I just thought that this year we should have been making the top eight.

“We had some losses there early in the season and it took a bit of confidence out of us. We started really well, but a couple of games at home where we put points on teams and we just weren’t able to shut those games out, but as the season wore on we put ourselves in that position and we were learning from that to win those games.

“I was very pleased in the team’s performance and I was proud that they just kept going. Probably after the [final] game there against Wests Tigers, [it was] probably a bit hollow; to be on a high for so long and we nearly got ourselves in a position to contest that game in the end.”

Conclusion… It was a great run home by the Green Machine and the youth of their side promises a lot for them in the future. They showed great resolve and commitment to not give up on their season and to build off one strong win to make a late charge and upset some of the top sides.

If Canberra can figure out how to turn their late 2010 form in to a full-year effort, they’ll certainly be contenders in 2011.