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Raiders forward Iosia Soliola.

For all of the monotony of an NRL season - train, travel, play, recover, repeat - there are few players who appreciate those hidden moments more than the game's elder statesmen.

From the in-jokes with team-mates that get them through to game day or trying to distract yourself from the pain of pre-season by dreaming of lifting the Provan Summons Trophy, the veteran appreciates all of those moments.

When you're 15 years into a professional career played out across two hemispheres, you're acutely aware that the magic has to end some day. 

As the Canberra Raiders enter the finals as a legitimate contender, their spiritual leader Sia Soliola is set to play an important role for every week their premiership dream remains alive in 2019.

The 33-year-old hardman has played 314 club games in his career in England and Australia and he knows every match brings him one step closer to hanging up his well-worn boots.

And just as he capped a five-year stint in Super League with a premiership in 2014, Soliola would love to slip a premiership ring onto his finger in the twilight of his NRL career.

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"I've got to be real with things, this could potentially be the last ride for me," said Soliola, who is contracted until the end of 2020.

"You never know when your next game is, or when your next injury is, I know that's a cliché, but you just never know.

"It's something I've spoken to the group about, especially towards the young fellas because I remember when I first started a lot of older heads were telling me how quick it comes."

Road to Finals: Raiders

With the words of a former great still ringing in his ears from his early days at the Roosters, Soliola is approaching every team meeting, every bus ride and every club commitment with the vigour of his younger self as the Raiders try and cap a remarkable year with a title.

"So, 12, 13 years later those are the things I think about when I'm coming into these games, thinking 'yeah it's true what those guys were saying'," Soliola said.

"Jimmy Dymock, I remember when he was coaching under 20s telling me about this when I first started playing at the Roosters and he was saying how quick a career is.

"So those little flashbacks are coming back to me as much as I don't want to sound like a broken record but it's the truth."

The heartache of a narrow preliminary final loss to the Storm in 2016 drives many of the current group, including Soliola, but he has been told by those who were part of the club's first premiership 30 years ago that there is more in common with a generation ago than two years past.

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"I remember Mal Meninga at the 1989 grand final dinner we had in July and he was talking about how games and seasons are all about moments," he said.

"The moments and the opportunities we get to seize, and I think that's why this year has gone so quickly for us.

"When we are coming into these training sessions and theses games we're really enjoying the opportunity for growth and being a part of something pretty cool."

Having effectively gone through a mini-finals series already with clashes against the Roosters, Storm, Sea Eagles and Sharks in the past month, Soliola said the side needs to handle the emotion of big occasions better.

"That last month was probably the best education we could have had in terms of the quality of the football we're going to be presented with come finals," he said.

"Last week was (a good lesson) one in terms of the atmosphere, the hostility of the crowd and the emotional side of things.

"We got the result we wanted but it still begs the question and it's something we've got to address.

"There's only so much you can prepare the group for because the best education is experience."

Acknowledgement of Country

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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