Canberra coach Ricky Stuart has praised veteran prop Dane Tilse following his performance in the Raiders' 22-12 victory over the Cronulla Sharks on Sunday afternoon.
Tilse, who recorded 24 tackles and 110 metres in the 10-point win, was at the centre of Stuart's attention despite five-eighth Anthony Milford scoring a double and setting up two others in the important win for the Green Machine, who now sit two points clear from the bottom of the ladder.
While he was complimentary of the 29-year-old prop, Stuart was also very happy with his team's ability to stick solid against a willing Cronulla outfit.
"’Tilsey’ would have been the best player on the field today. If Tilse didn't play today we don't win," Stuart told reporters after the game as the lanky front rower looked on next to him.
"My big blokes in the middle have been our backbone all year, they have been really good. ‘Tilsey’ said before the game he was going to aim up and lead by example and I don't want to embarrass him but he deserved the credit today. Not the backs. Him, Shannon Boyd and Paul Vaughan, I thought were very good for us.
"It has been a long, arduous season and what is getting us through is our camaraderie, spirit and our attitude at the moment. We purely won that game today because we stuck solid together."
With Cronulla dealt another blow to their season during the past week with four of their players – including internationals Paul Gallen and Anthony Tupou – banned by ASADA for the remainder of the season, Canberra started favourites in a game that would all but determine who would be the recipient of the wooden spoon.
Despite their favouritism, Stuart realised that Canberra had a difficult game ahead of them, admitting that it was a tough fixture to prepare for.
"The game went the way we had practiced all week. We knew it was going to be a grind, we knew it was going to be a slog and everybody who thought we were going to come here and win by 30 was never going to be on the money," Stuart said.
"We had to dig deep in this game because there isn't a lot of confidence in our team at the moment because of our past results. We had to come here and be favourites, and everyone was telling us that we were going to win so easily, which was a really hard thing to prepare for so we had to do a lot of mental work this week."
"We knew that Cronulla were going to come out the way they did with all those young blokes. There was a lot of pride and spirit in those young players there and credit to them. I've spent time at the club here. It is a good club and the adversity they have had would have been so difficult for the whole club outside of the playing group. I feel sorry for them for what they have had to endure over the past 12 months."