A Raiders side that faces a nightmarishly tough opening to season 2017 can't afford to start slow, according to returning England Four Nations representative Elliott Whitehead.
The former Bradford and Catalans back-rower was a revelation on the Green Machine's right edge last year in his first NRL season; having now eased his way back into training follow an extended break, he has stressed the need for his club to get the new season off on the right foot.
The first six weeks of Canberra's 2017 campaign features three away trips to Queensland, with each of the Cowboys, Broncos and Titans expected to be finals contenders this year, while the Raiders also host defending premiers Cronulla in Round 2.
"We're confident; we had a disappointing end to the season (losing in weeks 1 and 3 of the finals after finishing second) but we’ve put that behind us," Whitehead told raiders.com.au.
"We know we need to improve as a team and kick on and we don't want to start slow. We need to train hard and keep the confidence rolling."
Whitehead hoped that he and fellow Four Nations representatives would be up to speed quickly following their later return to the field.
"Your first few weeks are always tough but most of the boys that have been off for longer have come back in good shape and we're not too far behind the others now so a few more weeks and we'll all be up to scratch," he said.
He also welcomed the recruitment of another northern Englishman in the shape of St Helens utility Jordan Turner.
"It makes it easier for me, there's another guy that can understand me because no one else does!" Whitehead laughed.
"He's settling in well and training hard and all the boys have accepted him so it's good to have him on board.
"His utility is probably the main thing he can bring to the squad. He can play a few positions… we need a player like that that can fill a few positions and Jordan is perfect for that."