Austin and Papalii turnaround typifies Raiders revival: Stuart
Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart always believed demoted duo Blake Austin and Josh Papalii would earn their redemption sooner rather than later.
The pair, who returned to the NRL after being dropped due to poor form, played an integral role in the Raiders' grinding 18-2 victory over the Parramatta Eels on Saturday night.
It was the wake-up call Canberra needed after starting the season 0-4 and being embarrassed defensively in their 32-16 loss to Manly in round four.
"Blake and Josh went back to the Mounties very professional about the job they had to do there," Stuart said."They were always going to get back into first grade but they came out and responded the way that we all wanted them to."
Austin and Papalii scored either side of half-time to help bury a hapless Parramatta side which remains winless after six games and has managed just nine tries so far in 2018.
Match: Raiders vs Eels
Venue: GIO Stadium
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For the Raiders, the work on the training paddock is starting to show, with Stuart saying the side is now "picking up the pieces" defensively now after a sloppy start to the season.
"I'm not going overboard, it's early in the season and we've only won two games of football, but there is a lot of character in this squad," he said.
"When we're under a bit of pressure defensively you can see where they wanted to work for each other and that was probably the best part of the game tonight."
Canberra were tested at times during the clash, with the Eels bearing down on the Raiders' line for several sets in the shadows of half-time.
The Raiders side of the first month of the season would have eventually buckled, but a renewed steel and commitment saw them keep the Eels tryless.
Hooker Siliva Havili again shone for the Raiders, creating havoc out of dummy half and running for 103 metres. He also made 30 tackles.
"Obviously there was a lot of talk about with Hodgo (Josh Hodgson) being out and who was going to fill in but Siliva been great," Raiders captain Jarrod Croker said.
"For him to get all bar 80 minutes last week and big minutes, quality minutes again tonight was really good.
"The more minutes he gets, the more match fitness he's going to get, he's only played 30-odd games."
The greasy conditions suited Aidan Sezer's kicking game to a tee, and the 26-year-old earned praise from his captain for another outstanding performance.
"It's a simple game most of the time, you hold the ball and kick into corners and in conditions like those tonight," Croker said.
"Aidan led them around and did what a good halfback does. He's done that two weeks in a row now."
Austin and Papalii scored either side of half-time to help bury a hapless Parramatta side, which remains winless after six games and has managed just nine tries so far in 2018.