Canberra will target their upcoming block of five games – starting on Monday night when they host Brisbane at Canberra Stadium – as make or break for their 2013 campaign with prop Brett White claiming they are refreshed and reinvigorated following last week’s bye.
Disappointed by two narrow away losses to Cronulla and Manly in their past two outings, the Raiders spent the week off running through where they had gone wrong and have highlighted some key improvements they will be looking to make before their next bye in five weeks’ time.
“From the Test weekend where we had the weekend off we had five weeks there that we really put a lot of focus into, then we’ve got this break and then another five weeks starting now before the next break, so we’re able to refocus and really review what we’ve concentrated on these last five weeks leading up to the break,” he said. “There were two games in that period there we felt we let get away. We would have liked to have won three out of five but we only won two, but we’ve had a look and the two areas we’ve identified for us are defence and completions. It’s pretty basic stuff but those are the little areas that our focus is going to be on over these next five weeks.
“Our completions are down around 72 and we’d like to have that around 80. Our defence the past five weeks… we were quite high but overall across the whole year with the amount of tries we’ve let in, I think we’re in the bottom three and we don’t want to be down there. That will be a real big focus for us, trying to hold teams out – especially close to our line. We seem to be able to hold them down the field but when they get close to our line within a few plays or a few sets, most teams have been able to go through us.”
The Raiders appear to have found greater consistency this season and have been particularly strong over the past month, having upset Melbourne away and thrashed Newcastle at home before those tight losses to the Sharks and Sea Eagles halted their momentum.
But White said the side was feeling good after their week off with a win on Monday night enough to propel them back into the top eight.
“It’s fantastic being able to have a good break,” he said. “We had seven days off and we had seven days away from the club which I don’t think in my career I’ve ever been able to do that, have that long a period off during the season. It’s fantastic to get over any niggling injuries going around in the team and freshen up. I think it will do us the world of good.”
For White himself, just playing at all this season is a bonus following a 2012 ruined by injury.
A key member of the Raiders’ leadership group alongside captain Terry Campese, both men found themselves sidelines for the season with identical injuries – White having ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in Round 6.
But he said the lengthy lay-off had given him new perspective.
“I’ve actually never enjoyed my football as much as this,” the 31-year-old said. “It’s funny what 12 months away from the game and being able to freshen the body and the mind up can do – I’m just enjoying playing footy again.
“It’s funny, over the years that I’ve played I’ve never really had a big break as far as injuries are concerned so to have 12 months off, it feels like I’m starting again.
“Obviously everyone goes through injuries at some stage, that’s just part of football, but for I just really wanted to back and prove that I can play football again – both to myself and to my teammates. It’s not the way you want to finish your career being injured, so I wanted to get back and play some really good football.
“And it’s been good. It has taken me a few weeks to find my feet. The first few games were a bit rusty but I’m starting to play some more minutes and get through some more work now.”
White’s influence will be particularly important tonight given that the Broncos welcome back State of Origin forwards Sam Thaiday, Corey Parker and Ben Te’o although the veteran front-rower said he always enjoyed hosting the Queensland clubs at a chilly Canberra Stadium.
“It’s going to be good, actually, to have a 7 o’clock game against the Broncos down here,” he observed. “I think last year all the Queensland teams missed out on the cold nights down here. It’s perfect timing for us to play at 7 o’clock in Canberra in winter so that will hopefullywork to our advantage.”