Stuart: 'More good news coming'
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart is hoping in the coming days to provide Raiders fans with the answer to the question they are all asking in the wake of their team's 36-20 win over the Titans on Sunday: How on earth do you replace Anthony Milford?
The Brisbane-bound 20-year-old mesmerised a Titans defence that had spent the majority of the week working on ways to combat his influence, scoring two tries himself and setting up two more for his teammates in a consummate all-round display.
He ran for 194 metres, made four offloads and two line-breaks and for the majority of the second half was kept relatively quiet. He came up with one of the great pieces of individual flair for Jarrod Croker's try late in the first half and was faultless under the high ball.
There was a time in the wake of the World Cup where it appeared Milford may not return to play out the final year of his contract in Canberra at all but now those who support the 'Green Machine' have eight more matches to revel in his brilliance before it is turned against them in 2015 and beyond.
Even prior to the Round 13 deadline there were murmurings that the Raiders were throwing the bank at Milford to keep him in Canberra but Stuart said in the post-match press conference that the succession plan may have some developments in the coming days.
"I'd like to think that there's some good news ahead," Stuart said when asked of the possibility of an imminent announcement of a major signing.
"We've got a plan. We haven't just found out about it, we've got a plan in place so just got to keep working towards it."
Although the Titans arguably had much more to play for, it was the Raiders who seemed the more enthusiastic outfit almost from the get-go and had major contributions across the park in the six-tries-to-four victory.
Maximising the presence of Milford centre Jarrod Croker made three line-breaks, ran for 223 metres and kicked six goals from seven attempts, forwards Shaun Fensom, Jarrad Kennedy, Paul Vaughan and Dane Tilse all ran for more than 100m each and captain Terry Campese produced an inspirational 80m try-saver on Titans winger Kalifa Faifai Loa midway through the first half.
It was the type of all-round team performance that makes something of a mockery of their four straight losses but one Campese says is indicative of the attitude at training.
"I've said it plenty of times to the local radio and the Times, our performances on the field aren't reflecting how the mood is off it," Campese said.
"Our mateship and camaraderie, the place is in good spirits and that's the disappointing thing, that we haven't put that onto the field and got the two points. Today was a big step forward for us. We've been close plenty of times but when you're not winning on the field you don't get the rub of the green and you don't get the bounce of the ball and today I think we got that because we put ourselves in a position to win that game.
"The first 20 minutes we gave them a lot of opportunity in our own half and that's how we've been playing but that back 60 we played how the coaches wanted us [to], completing our sets and playing down their end and that's what we can do in the last 20 minutes."
The Raiders lost centre Brenko Lee 16 minutes into the second half with a torn hamstring that could sideline him for up to a month.
Brett White will return to the side to face Melbourne next Saturday night in Melbourne after Stuart decided that the clash with the Titans wasn't going to suit White's style of play.
"We were playing a different style of game today with regards to what I needed 'Whitey' for and he's just a terrific clubman, he understood it," Stuart said.
"I take my hat off to a bloke like that because he understood it was a team decision and that's why we all love 'Whitey'. He was disappointed not to be playing but understood from a team point of view the reason and he was great about it."