Fear of the axe driving Raiders
Veteran Canberra Raiders lock Sia Soliola has admitted the fear of being dumped to the Intrust Super Premiership has been driving him in recent weeks.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has held no fear over wielding the axe over his first grade side of late, with the likes of Shaun Fensom and Country Origin representative Paul Vaughan being demoted to the club's feeder side Mounties.
It hasn't perturbed the Raiders though, with the club currently sitting third on the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder.
"I've been around the game for a long time and know that [being dropped] happens. I understand that with success comes depth, which is healthy," Soliola told NRL.com.
"You have to see it that way when it comes to internal competition and you have to find ways to improve. In a way, it's something that's driving me along.
"We understand we can't be complacent, we have to stick to what's been working and not forget about how we reached this point. We're still obviously working on the things that have been successful for us but at the same time knowing what we have had to improve on."
Vaughan and Fensom boast 220 games of NRL experience between them but have been out of favour recently, with Stuart preferring the likes of Joe Tapine, Clay Priest and Luke Bateman – who have played a combined 64 NRL games.
Soliola has been proud of the way his two demoted teammates have held their own at training despite their obvious disappointment.
"It's tough for them because it's a change for them. But they understand it's a team-first mentality and they just have do what's right for the new fellas and the rest of the team," Soliola said.
"It's up to them to perform the best that they can for the Mounties and just hope that they'll be up there again.
"Sticky (Stuart) obviously sees something in the likes of Clay, Luke and Joe Tapine. Joe has been really good for us off the bench and he's really brought a lot of energy and line speed in defence.
"We're at a good stage at the moment. It's obviously unfortunate for some guys who have been sat out but we know injuries do occur too as does a loss of form."
Soliola's Raiders face the table-topping Sharks in a highly-anticipated clash on Saturday afternoon.
The Sharks will head into Round 22 off the back of a thrilling draw against the Titans and will have to deal with a five-day turnaround and the potential suspension of chief playmaker James Maloney.
"Talking from a fatigue element then maybe it might help us, but the Sharks are a good quality side who just turn up," Soliola said.
"Cronulla are a stubborn team who won't lay down.
"James Maloney has been a general for them and takes a lot of pressure off the rest of the spine but in saying that Fa'amanu Brown performed really well for them when they had their Origin players out.
"Hence why the club is where they're at, because they're strong across the board. We'll still have to be on the watch out because they have plenty of strike with (Ben) Barba and Valentine Holmes on the edges there."