Stuart says the good stuff came too late
Proud of the last gasp effort late in the season, gutted with the ultimate outcome.
Canberra’s final 80 minutes of the 2018 Telstra Premiership proved a microcosm of a disappointing season for Raiders coach Ricky Stuart, who was left to reflect on a tough 20-16 loss to the Warriors on Friday night.
The Raiders showed all the mettle at Mt Smart Stadium that saw them edge the Roosters and Rabbitohs in the past fortnight. They fronted up to the Warriors in much the same way - except where it finally counted, on the scoreboard.
"It was a big effort for us to turn up here tonight and play with that desire and attitude," Stuart said before turning his attention to the fact the Raiders will finish the season 10th.
"These last three games we’ve executed and fixed areas of our game but it's all been too late.
"People talk about the fact that 'I think it would be great to have you there [in the finals]'; You’re a team that can beat teams in the top eight'.
"But we're not [in the finals]. We've got to be realistic, we're not in the top eight and this time next year I want to be preparing to be in the top eight otherwise…you're sitting here disappointed you're not playing in the best part of the season."
Stuart emphasised Friday night's effort after a short turn-around was solid and believed the Auckland club had ultimately got across the line out of respect for 300-game Warrior Simon Mannering.
"I think it was a good experience tonight for them [Warriors] to feel that pressure going into next weekend's playoffs," Stuart said.
"I think it can be a good education for a footy team that hasn't been in the finals for the last seven years. And it helped them get up for that game [for Mannering] and they needed to be because we came ready to play."
With the sun setting on 2018, Stuart is already looking towards next season.
"The last three games we knew we weren't going to be in the eight but unlike some other teams that were going out and getting flogged, and not turning up for their last one or two games, that's not in us.
"It's not in the jumper; it's not in these players here to give up.
"I'm still very, very disappointed in not making the playoffs but I'm very, very proud of the fact that I'm coaching who I'm coaching and got what I’ve got there.
"I know they're all in there [the changing sheds] very disappointed with the situation of not being in the playoffs. But we've got three boys who are leaving and they've helped us build a platform that we have to bounce off and build off for next season," he said referring to Shannon Boyd, Junior Paulo, and Blake Austin.
"I think we've learned a hell of a lot this year."