Josh Hodgson celebrates a try against the Cowboys in Round 18.

Complacency was never an issue: Stuart

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has praised his players for blocking out talk from the outside world suggesting Monday night's game against the North Queensland Cowboys would be a walk in the park. 

The Green Machine were strong favourites to beat an Origin-depleted side despite only scraping past bottom-placed Newcastle in Canberra the previous round. 

 


After a few nervy moments late in the game, the Raiders got home 26-12 with fullback Jack Wighton's double separating the two sides. 

Stuart said he headed into last week's game apprehensive of how his team would handle the expectation of picking up four competition points as warm favourites. 

Given the results, he had no need to be concerned. 

"The last two weeks, the professionalism the team has shown with everybody telling them 'you should win this game'…they're the hardest games to play," Stuart said. 

"These two games have been two of the biggest worries for me over the last six or eight weeks because I know how hard it is to mentally get prepared for a game of football when you keep getting told you're going to win. 

"The professionalism they've shown in the way they've prepared to play has got us the two wins, and they were hard games. People who say that to you have never played NRL. There is never, ever an easy game of football at this level.

"We always knew they were going to be a hard team to play [because] they've got very strong depth.  

"I think the last three games we've played the Cowboys, it's been very similar games, but JT (Johnathan Thurston) comes home and rescues them. They missed that [tonight]."

Perhaps the most pleasing thing for Stuart was his side's exemplary completion rate. The Green Machine were nearly faultless in the first half with just one blemish in the error column. 

They finished the game with 34 completions from 39 sets to leave their coach with a satisfied feeling heading into the bye. 

"We've been so guilty of making games so hard for ourselves because of our unforced errors and our completion rates have been poor at times," he said. 

"Tonight they were good, and you tend to find yourself in the game more often than not [when you complete well]."

Raiders skipper Jarrod Croker said that despite the external talk, there was no complacency within the playing group heading into Monday night's game. 

The 14-point win makes it three on the trot for the Raiders who will now enjoy the bye before hosting the Warriors in what will be a crucial game for their top-four aspirations. 

"I think the boys have handled the last couple of weeks really well," Croker said.  

"We've just focussed on us and worried about us getting better every week, and I think we have. It's been three very physical games in a row so the boys get a good break now."