Departing Canberra forward John Bateman, who will re-join Wigan next year, insisted the “sky is the limit” for the Raiders despite the devastation of falling one game short of what they achieved last year.
Coach Ricky Stuart expressed both his disappointment and pride in his team after the 30-10 preliminary final loss to the Storm where the Raiders let the game get away from them in the opening quarter. Melbourne led 24-nil after as many minutes and it was a bridge too far to come back from there.
Bateman said the Raiders “never give up” and they proved it after the Storm shot out of the blocks, but he did tell the players in the dressing room how he felt about them.
“After Sticky spoke I said, ‘Boys, what you’ve done for me has been the best time of my life these last two years’,” Bateman said.
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“We are like a family down there and have been the most consistent team over the last two years now. We beat the Roosters last week and that shows that we are in a good position with the young lads coming through.
“I said to the boys ‘you have got something special here’. The sky is the limit and the boys can go on [succeeding] year after year now. They just have to work hard.”
Stuart had mixed emotions after coming up one game short of a shot at redemption.
"The first 25 minutes that we had no footy, we didn't defend well,” Stuart said.
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"We didn't start well and it was not us. I can handle the loss, I can understand the loss, but I'm just really disappointed that we didn't… have one of our better games tonight.
“They did a wonderful job of using the weight of possession they had. To our character and the resilience that is in the team, we hung around and tried to turn it around but Melbourne just wouldn't let us.
"It made it a tough night, but I'm very proud of where we got to."
Stuart finished his answer to the only question he took in the media conference by saying that he wished Craig Bellamy, Cameron Smith and their team “all the best for next week”.