Raiders want Canberra fortress back
One of the main goals of Canberra Raiders players in 2015 – other than returning the Green Machine to the finals for the first time since 2012 – is to once again make the nation's capital a ground on which other teams fear to tread.
Last year the Raiders won just two games at GIO Stadium in the first 24 rounds – and one of those against a badly weakened Cowboys side missing its Origin stars – before a brace of home wins against the struggling Wests Tigers and Eels made it four home wins for the season, to go with four victories on the road.
By contrast in 2013, despite still missing the finals, the side won its first eight home games straight, not going down in Canberra until a thrashing by the Storm in Round 21.
"Our home record was very poor last year... we need to turn it back into a fortress," injured lock Shaun Fensom told NRL.com.
"We need to bring it back to what it was like in the old days when teams used to hate coming here."
Big prop Paul Vaughan was of a similar mind, saying while anything less than a top-eight season finish is "unacceptable", the players also need to repay the fans for their loyalty with a better effort at home.
"Last year was pretty disappointing with how we went and the results at home, and the fans let us know. That's what we're looking to do at Canberra Stadium, make it a fortress again and that's one of the specific goals that we've got," Vaughan told NRL.com.
Of course the top teams need to win both at home and on the road, and Vaughan insisted the balance at the club now is right to achieve exactly that.
"We're in a good position at the moment, we're due for a good year, we're getting busted out on the field [at training] and we believe we've got a strong squad of players that can achieve good things so hopefully we can show that out on the field this year," Vaughan said.
"It's an exciting time for the club with all the good young players coming through."
Vaughan added there is no shortage of belief among the players that they have the team to make the top eight, with a renewed focus on defence which seemed to be lacking at times in 2014.
"Defence has been one of the biggest factors of the pre-season this year," he said.
"Defence wins you games and I think it's a big attitude thing. It's been pretty good in the pre-season and we'll put that into practice in the trials and see how we go. It just comes down to attitude and if you want to put your body on the line."
Fensom added the strong finish to 2014 – the side won its three final games of the year – provided some confidence the new-look team could start 2015 even more strongly.
"We've just got to be a lot more consistent this year, last year we struggled getting back-to-back wins," Fensom said. "This year we're going to be a more consistent side, grind teams out, be prepared to be patient and win the gritty games."
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