Raiders' silver lining from finals failure
No team wants the ignominy of being the first club to commence pre-season training but Canberra captain Jarrod Croker believes the Raiders' head-start on 2018 will help to make up for the disappointment of this year.
Raiders players – including new recruit Charlie Gubb and the familiar face of the returning Sam Williams – gathered at club headquarters on Wednesday to complete some administrative duties before getting stuck into pre-season training on Thursday.
This time 12 months ago Canberra players, officials and fans were still reflecting on a two-point Preliminary Final loss to the Storm and predicting bigger things to come only to suffer a number of heart-breaking losses to finish 2017 in 10th position.
It gave Croker the time to get married to long-time partner Brittney and honeymoon in Hawaii before reporting back for duty at Raiders HQ where he hopes a greater preparation will enable the team to make up for last season's failure.
"We trained hard last year, there's no denying that but one thing we did have to do last year was jam a lot of work into a shorter period of time," Croker said.
"Last year we got back at the end of November a couple of weeks before Christmas and then we had a couple of weeks after Christmas, trial games, All Stars and Nines whereas this year there's none of that.
"We're back about three weeks earlier so we've got plenty of time to work on all the stuff we need to work on."
While the majority of the squad returned on Wednesday there are 10 Raiders players still engaged with World Cup duties that will mean they don't begin their pre-season preparations until the new year.
With little disruption to the playing squad over the off-season and the 2018 season not commencing until the second week in March Croker believes having such a strong contingent currently on international duty won't adversely affect Canberra's preparations.
"It's nice to come back later on after being in the semi-finals but we get more chance to do more work," said Croker ahead of his 10th season with the Raiders.
"It's probably a good thing for us having a bit longer time with those guys who won't be back until after Christmas. It's a bit of a blessing in disguise.
"They're all internationals so they'll all look after themselves after they finish the competition and when you get to January you've still got eight or nine weeks until the comp starts.
"It will be a long time for us and they'll come back and still get plenty of work in and international players should slot straight back into the team."