Bad blood to fire Raiders' finals charge
The Raiders will embrace a siege mentality for their Saturday night showdown with the Sharks that they believe can deliver the momentum needed to launch a late run for a place in this year's finals series.
Dating back to 1989 when the Raiders disposed of the Sharks in week one of the finals on their way to their maiden premiership these two teams have engaged in a number of sudden-death clashes and Canberra players are adopting that same attitude this weekend with their season on the line.
The Dragons' defeat at the hands of Newcastle last weekend and the Raiders' win over South Sydney kept Canberra's faint finals hopes flickering for at least one more week and the recent animosity between the two sides will help fuel another absorbing contest.
Canberra got the better of Cronulla in their elimination final in 2012 but the aftermath was dominated by Paul Gallen's accusations that a then 20-year-old Josh Papalii had hit him with a "dog shot".
The Sharks turned the tables last year on their own march to a first grand final win with a 16-14 qualifying final win that saw Michael Ennis send the Raiders fans into a rage at full-time by mimicking their Viking clap.
Bolstered by the returns of both Papalii and winger Jordan Rapana this week Josh Hodgson has moved back to his preferred position at hooker and said that the side's precarious position will help bring out their best against their arch rival.
"Just the situation we're in everyone's a bit more revved up than normally," Hodgson said.
"We know how important every game is now for the rest of the year and we know we really have to put in our best performance each week otherwise we could miss out on the eight. Just that factor alone is obviously going to pick everybody up.
"[The rivalry] might come down to the fact that we're both pretty physical teams. There was obviously the prelim semi over here last year that we got beaten and the fans obviously remember things like that and it sticks with them.
"It's always a great game against the Sharks, we always have a fiery encounter. It's usually good to watch and it's a tough place to go and get a win.
"We're expecting a good game and we're pretty sure we can go down there and do a job."
The rivalry – whether real or imagined – between Papalii and Gallen is brought up every time that the Raiders and Sharks do battle.
That performance in the final five years ago was in many ways seen as the emergence of Papalii as a genuine force in the NRL and after two weeks out through suspension the 25-year-old is eager to try and make amends.
While insisting that every team he lines up against is a rival Papalii conceded that there is an extra bit of feeling when it comes to clashes with Cronulla.
"When I'm wearing the green jersey everyone's rivals but definitely with Cronulla," Papalii said.
"With the finals series the last couple of years and especially in 2012 and last year as well when they got us at home… It's disappointing to lose to another club and Cronulla's one of them.
"Everyone needs to go up a notch. We definitely know how to get there, we definitely know how to play finals, it's just controlling the ball a bit more and not being as desperate as we were the last couple of weeks.
"I'm pretty excited to be out there. I can't wait to run out with the boys again and hopefully get another win."
Recent history suggests that Canberra are capable of backing up their win over Souths last week having won four of their past five matches against the Sharks on their home turf, scoring at least 20 points in all five encounters.