Raiders release pressure gauge to find form
If the sting of their last-minute loss to the Panthers a fortnight ago wasn't bad enough Raiders players were sent on a long-weekend last week with a blast from coach Ricky Stuart ringing in their ears but five-eighth Blake Austin says the key to turning their season around is to release the pressure valve.
The Bathurst heartbreak came on the back of a golden point gut-buster against Manly but rather than tighten up with their finals hopes precariously placed, the Raiders have vowed to rediscover the freedom in their football on Saturday against the Broncos, another team to have inflicted a narrow defeat this season.
Conceding that the expectations placed on them before the premiership kicked off have added to a growing sense of frustration as they sit in 10th spot with just six wins to date, Austin says that if anything his side have been guilty of trying too hard.
"I don't think it's the win-loss record that's bringing the frustration and the pressure, it's more the expectation that we've had on ourselves and in a small way what everyone else's expectation has been too," Austin said.
"In the two-week block after the Penrith game there's been a real focus on releasing the pressure gauge a little bit.
"There's been a bit of talk that we're probably playing a little bit frustrated and with a few of the results they're compounding each other.
"We're probably trying too hard in some areas. That's been a huge focus, to get back to knowing what we can do well and really believing in ourselves.
"Unfortunately the two weeks off we've had this year we've had losses that we've been pretty disappointed with in the Bulldogs one and now the Panthers.
"There's been a real focus on releasing the gauge a little bit and getting back to really enjoying our footy."
Bolstered by the return of prop forward Shannon Boyd this week, fellow front-rower Junior Paulo says that even though they are in the wrong half of the Telstra Premiership table, belief that they can turn it around has never waned.
"No matter what happens on the field there's always going to be confidence in each other and that's the good thing about our team," Paulo said.
"There's a lot of expectation from us but we always back ourselves leading into a game. There hasn't been too much in the games that we have lost but we've got to be able to be confident going into the next week. You can't just shut up shop and give in like that.
"We go into every game thinking we're going to win.
"It's never been a lack of effort from the boys, it's just been getting the bounce of the ball and bad luck in a couple of situations.
"The bounces of the ball will come our way soon but we've just got to be able to stay consistent and keep going week in and week out."
Encouraged by a completion rate of 81 per cent against the Panthers, Austin concedes that the Raiders cannot afford to give the Broncos the amount of possession they gave them in their 13-12 loss in Brisbane in Round 4.
"The main thing that came out of that game was how much ball we turned over," said Austin.
"We looked at it [on Wednesday] morning. The Broncos had 32 touches in our 20 and we had nine in theirs.
"As that game went on we got a lot better and we're just going to have to give ourselves a better chance at the start of the match.
"Obviously we're a side that are going to have some errors but we've had a real focus on the unforced ones. With our completion rate last week I think we have had a bit more of a focus on that.
"The Knights game was a bit of a turning point in that aspect and we're pretty confident heading into this week."