The Raiders would have been hoping to go one better in 2020 after losing the 2019 grand final but a shocking injury toll rocked their season and in the end they did well to make a preliminary final.
Many put a line through Canberra's season when star hooker Josh Hodgson went down in round nine, joining a lengthy injury list that also featured almost an entire team's worth of middle forwards.
But the Green Machine proved their team is much bigger than any one player, losing just three more games all year including the preliminary final against the Storm.
Along the way they unearthed some gems, with budding hooker Tom Starling, young winger Semi Valemei and bustling forward Hudson Young among those enjoying breakout season while more established stars like Joe Tapine, Dunamis Lui and Dally M winner Jack Wighton producing arguably their best years.
They go into next season minus two key players in John Bateman and Nick Cotric, though have picked up Ryan James from the Titans.
Raiders' top five tries of 2020
Home and Away record
Canberra's overall 14-6 record was good enough for a fifth-place finish and nothing to sneeze at but their away record was phenomenal. Their home record looks middling by comparison but it's important to note that two of those four losses came in "home" games at Campbelltown Stadium when the competition first resumed under strict COVID protocols and the Raiders had to travel to and from Sydney by bus on game day.
However, both those losses – to Newcastle and Manly – were to teams that finished below Canberra so there was still a chance to press for top four that went begging. They had six wins and two losses at GIO Stadium.
Run metres differential
Ranking the 16 NRL clubs' 2020 performances by run metre differential yields a very similar order to the year's Telstra Premiership ladder – with the Raiders being the biggest outlier.
They were the only top eight side to concede more metres than they gained on average, making their impressive second half of the year even more remarkable. Outside Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (179 metres per game, 12th in NRL) and Josh Papalii (151m, 36th) few players really consistently nailed those big, tough carries with Jordan Rapana (130m, 71st) and Joe Tapine (124m, 83rd) the next best.
Try scoring - game time
The Raiders scored roughly a third (32.5 per cent) of their 77 season tries in the 20 minutes after half time and were steady in the other three quarters. Their first and last 10 minutes of games were quiet, with six and seven tries respectively in those brackets.
Tries conceded - game time
Defensively, the Raiders were second-half specialists, conceding just 20 (37 per cent) of their 54 tries after half time (10 in each quarter). All up they were a net positive 15 tries in the third quarter of matches as they tended to tighten the scores on opposition sides in the period after the break.
Tries scored/conceded from six-agains
The Raiders scored four more tries in the set after earning a ruck infringement than what they conceded in the set after giving one away – not bad considering they were the second-most penalised team on that front, giving away 83 ruck infringements behind only Manly (86).
Metres gained from offloads
Offloads weren't a big part of the Raiders' attack in 2020, although dynamic lock Tapine was more than happy to slip a few away to comfortably lead his side in that department with 30 thrown for the season (fifth in NRL). Next best was Josh Papalii whose 17 was 41st-most in the NRL.
Ever-reliable captain Jarrod Croker had his laser sights calibrated in 2020, helping the Green Machine to second-best in the NRL when it came to turning four points into six. Unsurprisingly there were no Raiders losses in 2020 that came down to goal-kicking.
There were two major contributors to Raiders finishing with the equal-most players used. One was the long injury list with Hodgson, John Bateman, Corey Horsburgh, Sia Soliola and Curtis Scott missing an extended period.
The other was the decision to rest most of the regular first grade 17 from the final regular-season round, handing five players their only game of the year including three debutants.
Pre-contact metres per run
Delving further into how and why the Raiders struggled in the yardage department reveals a net loss per carry in pre-contact metres. Several factors feed into this – line speed in defence, dominating the ruck in defence, fast play-the-balls in attack, crisp dummy-half service bringing runners onto the ball all contribute to picking up every precious centimetre before meeting contact.
Averaged out over thousands of runs over the season, every other top eight side plus the Titans, Dragons and Wests Tigers all did better here per run than the Raiders, highlighting a big area of potential improvement heading into 2021.
Time in opposition half
In an even more alarming statistic for Stuart's men over the off-season, only three teams spent more time in their own half than Canberra in 2020 – Brisbane, Manly and Gold Coast. Again several things feed into this – scoring tries, earning repeat sets, efficient last-play options and winning the midfield arm-wrestle. The Raiders will want to spend more time in good-ball next year.
2020 Form Guide
|1||Titans||GIO Stadium, Canberra||Won 24-6|
|2||Warriors||Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast||Won 6-20|
|3||Storm||AAMI Park, Melbourne||Won 6-22|
|4||Knights||Campbelltown Stadium, Sydney||Lost 18-34|
|5||Wests Tigers||Campbelltown Stadium, Sydney||Won 6-14|
|6||Sea Eagles||Campbelltown Stadium, Sydney||Lost 6-14|
|7||Eels||Bankwest Stadium, Sydney||Lost 25-24|
|8||Dragons||GIO Stadium, Canberra||Won 22-16|
|9||Storm||GIO Stadium, Canberra||Lost 14-20|
|10||Roosters||Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney||Won 20-24|
|11||Rabbitohs||GIO Stadium, Canberra||Won 18-12|
|12||Cowboys||Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville||Won 12-14|
|13||Panthers||Panthers Stadium, Penrith||Lost 28-12|
|14||Broncos||GIO Stadium, Canberra||Won 36-8|
|15||Titans||Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast||Won 16-36|
|16||Bulldogs||GIO Stadium, Canberra||Won 34-20|
|17||Roosters||GIO Stadium, Canberra||Lost 6-18|
|18||Dragons||WIN Stadium, Wollongong||Won 8-37|
|19||Warriors||GIO Stadium, Canberra||Won 26-14|
|20||Sharks||Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney||Won 28-38|
|Finals Week 1||Sharks||GIO Stadium, Canberra||Won 32-20|
|Finals Week 2||Roosters||Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney||Won 18-22|
|Finals Week 3||Storm||Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane||Lost 30-10|