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Burning finals desire driving ‘disgruntled’ Canberra: Stuart

The pain of missing out on finals football the past two years and a willingness to "win ugly" has helped to deliver the Raiders their first round-one win in three years.

Over the eight games played across the opening month of the past two seasons Canberra have been victorious just once, setting them back in such a way that any late-season surges are ultimately rendered futile.

Due in part to the torrential rain that made ball-handling problematic, their 21-0 victory over the Titans on Sunday evening won’t be savoured in the annals of great Green Machine victories in the years to come … unless it proves to be the starting point of a team finally coming of age.

Blessed with much the same talent that took them to within two points of a grand final berth in 2016, the Raiders showed a ruthless yet patient approach against the Titans that few could say has been a hallmark of their game in recent years.

The strength and conditioning staff have crafted a more mobile and robust playing squad in 2019 but according to coach Ricky Stuart the motivation has its foundation in knowing they were good enough to play finals football the past two years but didn’t.

"It comes back to the maturity of the group," said Stuart after the Raiders kept a clean sheet for the first time since defeating Parramatta 14-0 in round 19, 2013.

Match Highlights: Titans v Raiders

"There have been a couple of things that have stood out to me over the off-season. One of them was the way they came back after their break at the start of pre-season and then how they came back after the Christmas break.

"They did their off-season programs, they did their Christmas programs and they came back and you could see that there was a real focus on wanting to be individually good.

"They’re disgruntled about not playing semi-final football. And so they should be.

"The two years that we’ve missed out on over the last two years I believe we were a good enough squad to have made the semis.

"A little bit of bad luck last year with Hodgo [Josh Hodgson] and Jack Wighton didn’t help us.

"You just don’t want bad luck. I don’t need any good luck, I just don’t want any bad luck."

Now in his fourth year at the Raiders, halfback Aidan Sezer conceded having failed to live up to expectations the past two seasons, a win such as Sunday night shows a positive shift in their mindset.

Simonsson scores a try on debut

"We’ve fallen into the trap the last couple of years of thinking it was just going to happen for us," Sezer told

"We’ve under-achieved. We’ve left it a bit late the last two years so the most positive thing we can take out of tonight is the two points. Whether it was ugly or not, we’re not too fussed.

"We kept them to nil and that was one of the most pleasing aspects.

"Games aren’t won on paper. I know that’s a cliché but I think we just need to take it game by game to get the best out of our squad."

Sitting in second on the Telstra Premiership ladder on for-and-against, the Raiders host Melbourne at GIO Stadium on Friday night where Sezer knows their credentials will be fully tested.

"There’s still a long way to go but we’re just happy to kick-start our season and we’ll go back now and play Melbourne on Friday,” said Sezer, who was instrumental in orchestrating the win against his former club.

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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