Cowboys' premiership gives Raiders perspective
As the Canberra Raiders dusted off their boots for pre-season training on Monday, reigning premiers North Queensland were continuing their regional premiership trophy tour in Mareeba, one hour west of Cairns.
If that wasn't motivation enough in wanting to bring success to the nation's capital in 2016, then perhaps being the first team to commence pre-season training could do the trick.
With the Cowboys showing the benefits of what a grand final can bring to a one-team town, the Raiders are ready to start the hard yards for the 12 months ahead according to halfback Sam Williams.
"To be successful next year we have to be back at this time of the year and we have to train hard so it's just a part of the game," Williams said.
"If we did what [the Cowboys] did then we'd be able to have a bit more of a spell as well so we're all pretty excited to be back and we've all got a common goal and we all want to work hard to be successful next year.
"You come back at this time of the year for a reason and I have no doubt everyone here is going to work really hard for the next few months so it can hopefully put us in a [good] position.
"We're in a position now where we can hit the ground running in Round 1 next year and there's no reason why we can't start 2016 strongly."
When it comes to Williams's personal season ahead, he has an internal battle he needs to take care of.
With Raiders recruit Aidan Sezer welcomed to the club on Monday, and with Williams denied a release to join Sezer's old club the Titans for next year a couple of months ago, the two will now compete over the summer months to win a place in the halves alongside five-eighth Blake Austin.
"We are very lucky to have signed Aidan; he's a great player and obviously had a great year as well. It really puts the pressure on everyone to perform and we return early for pre-season just to prove ourselves and why we should be in the team," Williams said.
"I'm excited by the opportunity to challenge myself and learn about Aidan's game and try to push one another so we can be in the best position we can be for Round 1.
"In terms of the games I played over the year it was a step in the right direction. I felt I played some good footy though there were a couple of times I was disappointed, but that's another goal in 2016, to find a couple more levels of consistency. I was really excited to return to the club and I was happy with how my season turned out."
Meanwhile, Raiders skipper Jarrod Croker is looking forward to applying lessons learnt in his first season in charge of the team over the course of the pre-season.
"Obviously I'm only going to get better each game and each season hopefully," Croker said.
"We had some good times and some bad times last year but we had a good leadership group and a good bunch of guys to help get one another through it.
"There's not many players left from a couple of years ago so it's been a bit of a fresh start the last 18 months to two years. Sticky has the team now that he wants and it's just up to us now."