Improved depth key for Raiders rise: Tongue
Canberra Raiders legend Alan Tongue believes improved depth will be the catalyst for a much-improved performance in 2018.
The former club captain officially kicked off the Raiders' season at their gala launch on Friday night, saying the players know they need to rack up the early wins.
"Like most of them they are probably over-training at the moment and they are really keen to get into the season," Tongue told NRL.com.
"I think it's been helped by how the season has been launched and a couple of the games we've seen already on television, the standard of football has gone up a couple of notches, so I think we're going to see something very special this season."
Tongue said the biggest internal difference from the side a year ago is the depth across several key positions.
While the loss of hooker Josh Hodgson due to a knee injury has forced the club to sign Craig Garvey and Siliva Havili, the Raiders' development teams are starting to bare fruit.
"I really believe they have got a great roster which has got a lot more depth than last year," Tongue said.
"I think when you look at 2016 they had a fair few guys in the background like a Sam Williams or even Paul Vaughan was playing in NSW Cup, there was a lot of guys pushing for positions and you need that.
"There's some inexperienced guys in the depth of the squad this year but they're really exciting players."
When asked if there was a Canberra player set to raise the eyebrows of the Telstra Premiership this season, Tongue pointed to the fullback role.
"I'm really excited to see the continuing development of Jack Wighton, I think he's really grown as a player week in, week out," he said.
"With Sam Williams coming back, I think he's going to be really crucial for the side without Josh Hodgson.
"There's good talk about Charlie Gubb and what he's been doing at training, Jack Murchie is a guy who's come through the development system.
"But the main players need to be the ones to have outstanding seasons."
Before a tackle has been made or a try scored, all teams are aiming for a finals finish and every team has an equal chance of that before round one.
However, for Tongue, the Raiders have enough player talent and desire to be considered one of the best eight teams in the Telstra Premiership by experts and fans.
"They should be aiming for the top eight, most side are of course at this stage of the year, but I think they'd be bitterly disappointed if they didn't make the finals," he said.
The Raiders kick off their season on the road against the Gold Coast Titans next Sunday.