Raiders v Panthers: Five key points
The talking points from the Raiders' entertaining 34-18 win over the Penrith Panthers in Canberra on Monday night.
Raiders send Shillo out a winner
After 130 NRL matches for the Raiders since joining the club in 2009, it was a fitting home send off for David Shillington on Monday night.
After their team's win the Raiders skipper and coach were full of praise for the man that CEO Don Furner labelled earlier this week the best recruit he's ever brought down to Canberra.
"We came here tonight hoping to send Shillo out a winner," Jarrod Croker said.
"He's a mate for life, he's been great for the club."
Meanwhile Ricky Stuart also had praise for 2010's Dally M prop of the year.
"Shillo's been a big part of the club for a long time and it's a really good move for Shillo and his family going back to Gold Coast," Stuart said.
Panthers struggle to stop Raiders momentum
With a fired up forward pack and some clinical play from their halves early in the clash, the Raiders started on the front foot and never let their opponents into the match.
Panthers coach Ivan Cleary admitted after the loss that his side struggled to get in the game.
"They really came out firing with the ball, they've got some powerful players," he said.
"A couple of mental defensive errors cost us tries we weren't able to capitalise on our own football down their end of the field and we were certainly on the back foot.
"They generated a bit of momentum and we struggled to stop it.
"They were always going to play well tonight, it's been well documented they haven't won many down here this year but they've certainly been close.
"They're a big powerful team, when they hold onto the ball they're hard to stop."
Austin sticking around
In a huge boost for the club pre-game, one of the NRL's most prized signatures was secured on a Raiders contract, until the end of 2018.
The NRL's best buy of 2015, Blake Austin, will be plying his amazing trade in the nation's capital for three more seasons – a fact that had coach Stuart buzzing.
"It's really good news for the club, we know we're heading in the right direction," Austin said.
"I think over the last eight months it's shown that we certainly feel and hope our fans believe that we're going in the right direction too."
The Canberra coach said loyalty had been shown in both directions between club and player in signing the new contract, a deal that Raiders' bosses hope will instigate a round of long-term re-signings.
"It's been rewarded in both ends, he's done a great job for us and he's got a long way to go, it's great that he'll be here doing it with us," Stuart said.
Despite the great news for the dynamic five-eighth, his night was dampened by a painful shoulder injury that looks likely to rule him out for the remainder of the season.
"I haven't seen him (since the injury) but he's done enough for us this year," Stuart said.
Wighton's tackle confuses Panthers
In one of the talking points of the clash Jack Wighton hammered Jamie Soward with a tackle that knocked the Panthers' playmaker out.
However the referees saw no need to punish Wighton despite Soward's injury, the video referee saying he saw no contact between shoulder and head.
"I'd have to have a look again but the refs just told me contact was alright so they just called a lost ball," Panthers skipper David Simmons said.
"I just thought because he got knocked out that it was a fair indication it was head contact but they thought it wasn't."
Meanwhile coach Ivan Cleary said Soward was struggling after the big hit.
"He was just out the back and he's headed off to hospital, he's a bit crook I think," he said.
Raiders playing for 2016
With little to play for aside from pride in the final few games of the season, Stuart motivated his charges in a different way for their clash with the Panthers.
"Our theme for today was we wanted to start 2016 today and before the game we spoke about it we had to be professional," he said.
"We weren't playing for anything outside pride so we created the theme that today was our first part of preparation for 2016.
"We've got to make our home ground here a tougher place to play for opposition, we've got to win more games at home."