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1992-2001


1982-1991 | 1992 - 2001 | 2002 - 2011 | 2012 - 2015

 

A NEW BEGINNING

 

 

1992 saw the Raiders enter the second decade of their history and in a way, signalled a new starting point for the club.

The Raiders financial turmoil took its toll on the club in the pre-season, and more than a dozen players were forced to leave, among them Glen Lazarus, Nigel Gaffey, Paul Martin, Mark Bell and David Barnhill.

Coach Tim Sheens knew the hard task that lay ahead prior to season's kick off: "My main concern at the moment is to get a football side put back together after starting with what was basically a new club.....It's going to take six games, eight games, ten games or a season to get these kids out of A-Grade mode and into playing grade."

The side still possessed much talent and were together capable of another successful year, but when injuries sidelined players such as Gary Belcher, Ricky Stuart, Laurie Daley and new recruit Phil Blake early in the season, the side's lack of depth was exposed and they couldn't fully compete with the big guns.

They finished the season with a 10-12 record and missed the finals for the first time since 1986.

RETURN TO FORM

 

 

After the disappointment of 1992 subsided, the Raiders were tipped by many to bounce back and once again challenge for the title in '93.

A shaky first half of the season created a few doubts amongst the observers, but when the Green Machine embarked on a stunning end of season winning streak, which included big wins over eventual Grand Finalists St George and Brisbane, they were again the hot tip for the premiership.

With only 2 weeks to go until the finals, champion halfback Ricky Stuart, who was enjoying one of his best ever seasons, suffered a horrific ankle injury during the second half of Canberra's record-breaking 68-0 thrashing of Parramatta at Bruce Stadium.

The club remained positive in the public eye, but the loss of Stuart had dented the side's confidence significantly, and they were duly thrashed by the Bulldogs in the last round of the premiership. The team hobbled into the finals, but they had lost their attacking spark with their chief playmaker on the sideline.

They copped a one-two punch from St George (31-10) and Brisbane (30-12) in their two finals fixtures and a promising season came to a heart-breaking and abrupt end.

BIG MAL EXITS A WINNER

 

 

The Raiders looked every bit as good on paper in 1994 as they did the previous year, all they needed was a little luck on the injury front.

They got it, and with a host of stars on deck throughout the season, the side rattled up a club record 9-game winning streak and finished the regular season with the then all-time records of 779 points and 146 tries scored.

The Major Semi Final against minor premiers Canterbury was one of the all-time classics. With the scores tied at 18-all at the end of 80 minutes thanks to a David Westley try on the stroke of full time, the normally unfallable Ricky Stuart missed 2 field goal attempts, before Bulldog winger Darryl Halligan slotted a one-pointer with only a minute remaining on the clock. After 100 minutes of desperation football, players from both sides were left strewn across the paddock, exhausted. Bulldogs prop Martin Bella summed up what most of the players were probably thinking after the match: "I would rather have lost than have to play a (mid-week) replay."

In the qualifyer played the following week, the Raiders proved to good for North Sydney, who had scraped home by a point the previous Saturday against defending premiers Brisbane, and went on to face the Bulldogs in the Grand Final. They now had a chance to send retiring captain Mal Meninga out with a premiership.

The dominant way in which they did it was unexpected. Right from the opening kick-off, when Martin Bella spilled the ball and put the Raiders on the attack, Canberra dominated. Veteran Paul Osborne, who had received a late call-up to replace the suspended John Lomax, set up two first-half tries, while Meninga capped a wonderful afternoon and career by taking an intercept late in the game and racing away for a try. The final scoreline read 36-12 and the Raiders had secured their third premiership in stellar fashion.

SUPER LEAGUE MOVES IN

 

 

The Raiders entered the post-Meninga era with a side brimming with a good mix of youth and experience. Injuries at various stages to key players forced coach Tim Sheens to blood new talent such as Luke Davico, who had taken up Rugby League only 5 years prior.

April 1995 saw the biggest story in nearly 100 years of Rugby League hit the press. A rebel competition, to be run by the powerful Murdoch Group, was planned for 1996 and 10 players from the Raiders signed lucrative contracts.

Other clubs followed suit, and the ARL responded by cancelling then current representative contracts. The Super League story dominated the League press for months and despite the unrest, the Raiders managed to play their most successful regular season ever. They finished on top of the ladder, equal with Manly and had only lost 2 games all season.

After downing Brisbane 14-6 in a thrilling quarter final at Lang Park, the Raiders progressed straight to the preliminary final, where they would meet the Bulldogs yet again. But this time a hungry Canterbury outfit would not be denied, playing superb football to stun the raging favourites 25-6. They would go on to defeat competition favourites Manly in the Grand Final.

1995 saw Steve Walters notch up a club record 216 club games for the Raiders.

NOA CARVES 'EM UP

 

 

With the launch of the Super League season pushed back until 1997, the Raiders set about trying to step back up to the plate and mount another challenge for the title.

Fijian flyer Noa Nadruku returned to his brilliant best, scoring a league-leading 21 tries for the season, including an amazing mid season 8-match run in which he netted 10 tries.

The Raiders put lesser teams to the sword in 1996, but often struggled with the top weights.

They did well enough to get into 6th position, but were downed 16-14 in the first week of the finals by St George, who were beginning their own remarkable run to the Grand Final.

SUPER LEAGUE KICKS OFF

 

 

The rebel competition fielded 10 teams in its one season, and the Raiders were expected by many to be challenging for the champions trophy at season's end.

But after 6 rounds and only one unconvincing win over newcomers Hunter to show, the pressure was well and truly on the club and rookie coach Mal Meninga to perform.

The team responded to the adversity, and won 10 of their remaining 12 regular season matches to finish in third position overall.

They posted a big win over Penrith at Bruce Stadium in the finals, but two losses to Cronulla at Shark Park saw them exit the premiership race.

Brisbane would go on to soundly defeat the Sharks in the Grand Final and the Super League and ARL competitions merged to form the National Rugby League in 1998.

20 TEAMS - ONE PRIZE

 

 

The league world breathed a collective sigh of relief when the segmented competitions were brought together again in 1998.

Canberra junior Mark McLinden burst onto the scene, tearing apart opposition defences on his way to winning the NRL's Rookie of the Year award, as well as the Raiders player of the Year.

Leading the club in tries in '98, McLinden left no doubts as to his ability and was hailed as a future superstar by coaches and journalists.

The Raiders had a winning but inconsistent season, posting a number of memorable wins over tougher opponents, but falling over against teams they were expected to beat on more than one occasion.

They posted a convincing 17-4 home win over Manly in the first week of the finals and then went down the following week to NRL newcomers Melbourne at Olympic Park, ending their 98 campaign.

'OLD FIRM' ALL BUT GONE

 

 

With salary cap restrictions biting the club hard, the Raiders released two of the clubs all-time greats in Brad Clyde and Ricky Stuart, who both took on contracts at the Bulldogs. The decision was an unpopular one with many of the fans and sponsors.

Brett Hetherington joined the Cowboys, and Luke Priddis moved to the Broncos, leaving a big hole in the Raiders armour.

The Raiders played with plenty of heart, opening their account with a good home win against the Broncos and in round 8 playing out a thrilling draw against Newcastle, with Luke Williamson calmly slotting a field goal on the final siren to level the scores at 21-all.

History shows that the Raiders fell one point short of a finals spot in '99, after going down to Penrith on the second-last weekend of the regular season.

The season was one of the most closely-fought in history, with the 8th-placed Brisbane Broncos finishing on 32 points, the most ever in a 26-round competition.

FAREWELL 'LOZZA'

 

 

2000 would see three more club legends go at season's end, with Laurie Daley set to retire, and David Furner and Brett Mullins set to leave to the English competition.

The trio played their last match in Canberra against the Roosters in round 23. The Raiders played inspiring football, thrashing the eventual Grand Finalists 40-12, with Mullins scoring a double, Furner kicking 6 goals and Daley having a hand in everything.

The team finished in 4th spot and blew Penrith off the park 34-16 in their qualifying final at Canberra Stadium, booking a semi-final clash with the Roosters at the SFS. The Penrith match ended in controversy however, with star players Simon Woolford, Jason Croker and Andrew McFadden all charged and consequently suspended for dangerous throws.

The Roosters were always going to be tough, but without their suspended trio the Raiders couldn't muster the attacking spark needed to match them. Down 32-0 with time running out, captain Daley made an emotional plea to his players to dig deep and try and salvage something from the wreckage.

They responded, and although the game was well and truly out of their grasp, they managed to lift and score two late tries, with Mark McLinden scoring their second off a trademark Daley grubber kick. The Roosters players formed a guard of honour for Daley, who received a standing ovation from the crowd as he walked from the field for the last time. Daley would later be immortalised in bronze at Canberra Stadium.

REBUILDING

 

 

2001 was most definitely a season of extreme ups and downs for the Raiders.

On the upside, Parramatta recruit Clinton Schifcofske filled the vacant fullback spot perfectly and played the best season of his career, scoring a club record 245 points (102 goals, 10 tries, 1 fg) and taking out both the club's Player's Player and Best Player awards. The club also blooded plenty of young talent during the season, with Ryan O'Hara, Troy Thompson, Joel Monaghan, James Evans and Michael Robertson all gaining valuable first grade experience.

One of the most memorable matches in club history took place at Canberra Stadium on June 24, when the Raiders staged a stunning come-from-behind victory over the Roosters, after losing 4 players during the match to injury and Jason Croker playing on with badly damaged knee and ankle ligaments.

On the down, injuries plagued the club before and during the season as they limped to 9 wins and an 11th placing on the ladder. They managed back-to-back victories only twice during the season, but ended with a double that gave them confidence heading into 2002 - hammering Brisbane 40-18 at ANZ Stadium and Melbourne 32-6 at Canberra Stadium.

Local junior Andrew McFadden joined the Eels and Lesley Vainikolo took up an offer from UK club Bradford, while head coach Mal Meninga stood down, with former Bradford coach Matthew Elliott taking over the reigns for 2002.