McCrone: Ricky factor already in play
With a new coach and disruptive influences gone, Raiders playmaker Josh McCrone is confident the Green Machine will be around come finals time in 2014.
McCrone welcomed the influence that former Canberra great Ricky Stuart has had on the club since he arrived.
"I think he's been awesome since he got here, he's a very approachable sort of bloke and he's brought another level of professionalism so far," McCrone told NRL.com. "There's no doubting his passion for the club, it's a good thing to have in a coach."
McCrone said it was as much off-field disruption as on-field problems that contributed to Canberra's poor 13th-place finish in 2013.
"I'm confident we can make the eight. We had as much issues off the field as on the field [last year] so if we can clear up those issues off the field, I'm fairly confident that we definitely can, I think on-field success will follow," he said.
And with a disciplinarian like Stuart at the helm, McCrone said an improvement in that area shouldn't be in question.
"I think he's pretty straightforward, there's no guessing what he's thinking and that's a great thing in a coach/player relationship, so it's good," McCrone said.
With the group only just back at training, there has not yet been any talk of who will play in what positions, and although it seems likely McCrone will partner Terry Campese in the halves, he said he will be happy just to make the team.
"We haven't sat down and talked with Ricky about which way he's going to go, we're just trying to get the volume in the legs and just get rid of some body fat and put on some muscle. It'll be exciting, I'm just hoping to start the season somewhere to be honest," he said.
McCrone said there were no major injury concerns with the squad, with the handful of players recovering from off-season issues all likely to be back at training by Christmas or not long after.
"We've been pretty lucky, there's four or five in the injured group, almost everyone's out there running and the boys that are injured aren't that far away from coming back and training with us. Definitely by Round 1 we'll have everyone on deck but hopefully by Christmas or not long after."