We played for the jumper: Stuart hails Raiders' courage
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart has known throughout the season what his side is capable of when they pull in the one direction.
That's why the coach was a mixture of pride and lamenting what might have been following his side's 14-12 victory over the Sydney Roosters at GIO Stadium.
On paper it's easy to see what has gone wrong in 2018 - the Raiders are the have scored the most points but are 13th overall for defence.
However, it's the enigmatic performances from some Raiders stars that left Stuart wondering what might have been this season.
"It was a good win, plenty of heart, still with players out and the way they rallied around and played for each other and played some really good football with 19 out of 19 sets in the first half," Stuart said.
"I keep telling the boys if your completions are good then it makes your defence easier, but we actually played well tonight.
"When you lose close games like that, as a coach I say to people 'this team's not far away' and a couple of people might believe me after that.
"This team isn't far away and sometimes you need a couple of things to go your way in a tight competition like this to help you."
There was no better example of the type of defence the Raiders are capable of than in the second half when they lost fullback Brad Abbey and forward Luke Bateman due to HIA.
The reshuffle saw Blake Austin at fullback and Elliott Whitehead at five-eighth and still they held Roosters out.
"We've already got Jack (Wighton) out, Toots (Jarrod Croker) out, Aidan (Sezer) out and you take Luke Bateman and our second fill-in fullback... it's a wonderful effort, playing for the jumper," Stuart said.
"We talk about playing for the people in the stands, for the people who are here braving the conditions watching is.
"That's why I get so down frustrated and disappointed with losses because we want to win for them too."
Canberra captain Josh Hodgson said his men knew what they were capable of but the rest of the NRL would only see it when they produced it against a premiership contender like the Roosters.
"As a player, I've always had the belief so that's where the frustration comes from, especially when you get a win like that," Hodgson said.
"You get even more frustrated even more when you look at what you can do, and consistency is the biggest thing we need.
"We talk all of the time that we're not too far away and if we can get guys like Emre (Guler) and Jack Murchie a taste and get them a feel for next year that's important."