Blake Austin suffered a knee injury in Canberra's season opener against Penrith.

Raiders v Panthers: Five key points

Injuries took their toll on both teams as the home side prevailed in a thrilling contest in Canberra.

Crucial injuries sour good game

It was a Round 1 thriller in the nation's capital, but both teams will be leaving GIO stadium with an extra tinge of disappointment after losing key players.

For the Raiders, superstar five-eighth Blake Austin suffered a medial ligament injury after attempting to make a cover tackle and getting tangled up with a teammate. 

Coach Ricky Stuart said the injury definitely wasn't an ACL, but was unsure of a return date for Austin. 

He's expecting Sam Williams to slot straight in next week against the Roosters.

Meanwhile, the Panthers also lost a key playmaker, in the form of hooker James Segeyaro.

"Looks like he's got a broken forearm, which is disappointing," new Panthers coach Anthony Griffin said. 

"He's a pretty tough kid; he wouldn't come off."

Mental toughness wins out in Round 1

In 36-degree heat this game was always going to be won by the outfit with the most mental toughness.

And while the Raiders got the edge late, it was revealed in the post match press conference that some of their players were playing a lot tougher than it initially seemed.

"We had Sammy [Williams] pull out late, Jarrod [Croker] shouldn't have played, he had the same [virus] as Sam. Then we lost Blake," Stuart said.

But new recruit Aidan Sezer was the biggest proponent of Canberra's toughness, as his coach revealed he probably broke his cheekbone or eye socket early in the game.

"We've got to check him out. There's a chance he has a broken cheekbone or eye socket, but he stays on," Stuart said.

"That for me is better than setting up three tries and scoring two tries, him staying on under those conditions he couldn't see out of his left eye."

Meanwhile skipper Croker diverted attention from himself after Stuart explained he was extremely sick coming into the match.

"It was more tough for those boys in the middle I can guarantee you that," Croker said. 

"I was just a bit disappointed in my workload. But those boys in the middle were awesome. And Sezer he hurt his cheek early but he steered us round really well." 

 

Recruits star in first hit-out

Both sides will be happy with the performances of their new recruits after their Saturday afternoon showdown.

For the Panthers, Trent Merrin was extremely strong through the middle of the field, making great metres, throwing a few offloads and scoring a nice try.

Peta Hiku was also impressive, scoring a try and looking dangerous out wide.

Meanwhile key recruit Aidan Sezer was clearly Canberra's best, scoring two tries while unable to see out of his left eye thanks for a probable broken eye socket.

Elliot Whitehead made no mistakes in his first game on Australian soil, while Jeff Lima was powerful in the middle.

Stuart said his side's new men were crucial in earning victory.

"This time last year we lost that one," he said. 

"I think the addition of our new players and the experience we got last year in close games, it obviously helps." 

Panthers shoot themselves in the foot

In his first game as Panthers coach Anthony Griffin was pleased with the effort from his players, but said they didn't play smart in the second half.

"We beat ourselves in the end, it was a really good physical effort by us but we were pretty dumb that second half," he said.

"We were going in on top of them [in the second half], we found the first try but from then on we hardly completed a set of possession.

"We kept coming, we were resilient, but if there's 30 minutes you don't want to be without the ball it's the last 30.

"In the end we just killed ourselves."

Fans 'won us the game': Stuart

Ricky Stuart was quick to thank loyal members after his side's victory, revealing the team has never had so many members to start a season before.

"When you look at it at the end of the day we've got the toughest fans in the competition," he said.

"If they're not sitting in 35 degree heat they're sitting in minus 2. 

"They won us the game and we know they'll be back next week. We're doing everything we can to make them proud."