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Raiders forward Sia Soliola.

The worst injury crisis of Ricky Stuart's coaching career has helped establish one of the strongest forward rotations in recent memory.

Canberra will boast more than 2000 games of top-flight experience across 14 forwards in 2021, a figure none of their 15 NRL rivals come close to matching.

The returns of Josh Hodgson (ACL), Corey Horsburgh (foot), Emre Guler (ankle) and signing of Titans veteran Ryan James make for fierce competition in Stuart's starting 17 this season.

In turn the rise of Tom Starling, Hudson Young and Ryan Sutton, coupled with career-best form from Josh Papalii, Dunamis Lui and Joe Tapine in 2020 saw Canberra develop a serious silver lining to what Stuart described as the worst injury list of his 17 seasons of coaching.

Experience and matches played alone, of course, aren't a true reflection of depth.

A 20-game rising star can offer more value than a veteran with 250-plus appearances who has fallen down the pecking order.

But the Raiders big-man stocks loom as the envy of the competition given the likes of Horsburgh, James, Guler and Havili are no certainties to crack Stuart's game-day squad, a luxury few other sides can match.

Veteran prop Sia Soliola hasn't seen anything like the Raiders depth in his 15 seasons of first grade in the NRL and Super League, which started under Stuart at the Roosters in 2005.

"This is a squad where when you look at the roster and our forwards, I've never been in a club with that much experience, never to this degree," he told

Analysing the Raiders' 2021 draw

"I'd hate to be Ricky picking his squad. I'm in that boat too, there's no guarantees for a lot of spots.

"We're always getting tested, Sticky lays down the challenge to us every training session. The question is there 'how much do you really want it?'

"There's a great level of depth here at the club, given the experience we had last year. You never know what can happen and we might end up needing everyone.

"If it's anything like that, we're going to need everyone at their best."

An analysis of forward depth and experience has the Raiders combined 1399 NRL games coming out ahead of the next most capped forward rotation – the Roosters 1312.

Taking into account the 545 Super League appearances of Hodgson, Elliott Whitehead, Sutton and Soliola, and extensive representative experience, Canberra's stocks are unmatched.

Sticky lays down the challenge to us every training session

Raiders forward Sia Soliola

Again, these statistics are not the be-all and end-all. Penrith's youngsters like Spencer Leniu (17 games) and Liam Martin (37) pack punch well beyond their tallied appearances.

Though how the 2020 grand finalists adapt without the leadership of James Tamou (267 NRL appearances, 26 games for Australia and NSW) and Zane Tetevano (122 NRL games) is a subplot to their upcoming season.

Of the six most experienced forward contingents in 2021 squads, four played finals football last year, including eventual premiers Melbourne.

Looking to the other end of the spectrum, the forward stocks of Manly (763 total appearances), Canterbury (895) and Wests Tigers (935) hold concern if injuries hit their first-choice pack.

It must be said though that Penrith (803 games among forwards) and South Sydney (846) also boast similar numbers, yet took their sides into the final four of last year's competition.

For Soliola, Canberra's remarkable forward depth is on show every time they hit the training paddock.

His own future beyond 2021 will be decided around two months into the season – "when Rick and I set down and have that conversation about where the club's at and where I'm at".

The Raiders' 2020 season in review

The Raiders' spiritual leader has seen the stakes upped markedly in the nation's capital as younger players continue to develop and challenge their established teammates.

"The best thing about having the group we have is training is at another level because there isn't a big gap in between the most experienced and the least," Soliola said.

"The younger guys have been around for a few years now. We come in and it's just quality, everyone's matured and they're all competing.

"So training is efficient and quality sessions from the entire forward group.

"It sets the standard that keeps cycling through and you have confidence in everyone in the squad."

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