Reality sinks in for Raiders
Canberra's run for an unlikely finals spot looked promising after their big win over the Knights on Friday night, but by Sunday their season was officially over after a year riddled with inconsistency.
Manly's late comeback over the Warriors was the final blow for the Green Machine, who have suffered enough with close losses and last-minute defeats to leave their season's fate in opposition hands.
After a successful 2016 season, Ricky Stuart's men had a weight of expectation given to them early but failed to live up to the pre-season hype despite a fairly injury-free run throughout the year.
The Raiders will rue a mid-season slump that consisted of seven losses – five of which were by a margin of six points or less including a golden point loss to Manly and a shock-loss to the Panthers on the siren.
"It's disappointing but we've only got ourselves to blame," Raiders forward Luke Bateman said.
"We shouldn't have put ourselves in that position to begin with. If it gets to the end of the year and you're hoping on other teams' results you don't deserve to be there anyway."
The 22-year-old admitted the mood around camp had immediately changed on Monday morning and he was left to listen to the Sea Eagles' victory through the car radio.
"Coming in [to training] everyone was down and it doesn't help when you have a sniff and for it to be gone," he said.
"We had such a good year last year and everyone was looking forward to playing finals footy this year.
"The air went out of the tyres after the result."
Bateman's comments come as the Raiders prepare for a final round clash with the Melbourne Storm – the team heavily favoured to take out the 2017 Telstra Premiership and coming off an astonishing 64-6 victory against the Rabbitohs.
The final round dead-rubber will be nothing short of hostile however with the rivalry between the two clubs at an all-time high.
It was in Round 20 both sides were embroiled in controversy with Billy Slater left concussed following a late hit from Raiders veteran Iosia Soliola.
The tackle led to debate over the send off ruling and left Storm halfback Cooper Cronk declaring Slater couldn't remember Origin III due to the tackle.
Soliola returns from a five-week suspension following the Slater tackle for the clash at AAMI Park.
"He's a leader and has a massive work rate," Bateman said.
"He's been positive and we've definitely missed him.
"It would be really good to come back into the off-season with a win against the minor premiers.
"If there's no go forward then we'll have absolutely no chance.
"They're very good defensively and are well structured. It's hard finding holes in them and we'll have to be at our very best."