A NEW FORCE EMERGING 2003
The Raiders unveiled a new playing strip in 2003, with a 'return to the roots' type design, restoring the blue and gold colours of ACT representative sport and reverting to a more original lime green coloured jersey. The club also recruited more Parramatta stars, with Brad Drew, Ian Hindmarsh and Adam Mogg joining Michael Hodgson and Clinton Schifcofske in the Nation's Capital.
On the field, the Raiders had their best season since 1995 (16 wins, 620 points scored); the 'travelling blues' from seasons past swept aside as the team won all but 1 regular-season road match on the way to a top-4 finish and eventually a semi-final spot, in which they went down 17-16 to the Warriors in one of the most thrilling matches of the season.
Joel Monaghan emeged as one of the league's most potent try-scoring weapons, notching up 21 tries, including 4 in the Raiders 51-16 thashing of Manly at Brookvale Oval.
It was a highly-successful season for the club, taking out both the SG Ball and Premier League titles and coming within a whisker of knocking Parramatta off their perch as NSWRL Club Champions since 1997.
FAREWELL 'MUSS' AND 'STATUE' 2004
Expectations on the Raiders were high after a successful 2003, but this would be a mixed year for the club.
The Raiders qualified for their third straight finals series, but only by the skin of their teeth with an unflattering 11-13 win-loss record.
Plagued by injury and suspension during the season, the Green Machine appeared out of finals contention when they lost to the Sydney Roosters 22-38 at Canberra Stadium in Round 24. But results went their way and the Raiders stole eighth spot with a crushing 62-22 win over Souths in the final match of the regular season.
In hindsight though, it was a spine-tingling 30-29 victory over the Warriors at Canberra Stadium in Round 20 that saved Canberra’s season. The Raiders came back from a 10-point deficit and fullback Clinton Schifcofske kicked two field goals - one in golden point extra time – to seal an incredible victory.
There was some disappointment for fans when club stalwarts Ruben Wiki and Luke Davico farewelled the Raiders at the end of the season. But in recognition of the club’s commitment to junior talent, a number of players made their NRL debuts in 2004 - Todd Carney, Terry Campese, Josh Miller, Alan Rothery, Nathan Smith and Marshall Chalk.
The Raiders also ended their representative drought of recent seasons, prop Ryan O’Hara picked to start for NSW in the opening State of Origin.
In the juniors, the year was highlighted by the selection of four players in the Australian Schoolboys team – Michael Dobson, Luke Jay, Cy Lasscock and Steve McLean. Carney and David Milne were also selected for the junior Kangaroos.
The Raiders embarked on a big recruiting campaign for season 2005, signings highlighted by former Australian Test players Jason Smith and Matt Adamson as well as Craig Frawley and Lincoln Withers.
RAIDERS EARN RESPECT IN TOUGH SEASON 2005
When the undefeated Raiders shot to the top of the National Rugby League ladder after Round 5, they would not have been able to predict the misfortune to follow.
What started so promisingly ended in disappointment as a crippling injury toll contributed the Raiders missing the finals in 2005.
The Raiders began the season is sensational form. Highlighted by a 24-16 win over the Roosters in Round 5 – their first over the Bondi club in eight matches – the Raiders won their opening four games.
The Raiders were flying high, no win more inspirational than a 26-18 comeback victory over the Panthers at Penrith in Round 9. The Raiders had trailed 18-0 after 18 minutes.
Injuries were already starting to add up, props Ryan O’Hara and Michael Weyman both out for the season. In all the Raiders would use 30 players in the 2005 NRL season.
Suspensions were also frustrating, skipper Simon Woolford receiving a controversial 8-match ban for a lifting tackle on Melbourne’s Billy Slater.
While players fell, others lifted. Josh Miller and Troy Thompson stepped up to establish themselves as leaders of the pack, the two front rowers shared the Player of the Year award at season’s end.
Wins were few and far between in the second round, but they were memorable. There was a thrilling 23-22 victory over eventual grand finalists the North Queensland Cowboys in Round 16, followed by an upset 26-18 win over competition leaders Parramatta in Round 19.
Three players – Jason Smith, Alan Tongue and Adam Mogg – played on with fractures in their hands as the Raiders struggled to field a team in the final few rounds. Despite the adversity, the 2005 Raiders showed a lot of grit and determination.
In the lower grades, the Raiders won the Under 18 SG Ball title and fell one game short of the Premier League grand final.
RAIDERS FAREWELL SIX OF THE BEST 2006
The Raiders began 2006 with a season full of promise after dismantling the Manly Sea Eagles 27-14 in front of a packed house at Brookvale Oval in round one, but what followed next was two of the darkest weekends in the clubs history, with the Raiders thumped in a Premiership record 70-32 score line by the Newcastle Knights in round two, followed by another 56-20 thumping at the hands of the Sydney Roosters in round three.
What was to come next though was an inspiring string of performances that fully encompassed the Green Machine spirit, with a return to the winners circle courtesy of a golden point win against Penrith the following week, and a fantastic 18-14 last minute win two weeks later at home against the Warriors.
The Raiders then had their chance to beat the eventual premiers Brisbane two weeks later after their first bye, but blew a seemingly unbeatable 18-0 lead to go down narrowly 30-28.
This narrow loss kicked the Raiders back into gear though and they went on to win four out of their next six encounters, including another golden point win against the North Queensland Cowboys courtesy of a long range Todd Carney field goal.
Losses to the Storm and Parramatta threatened to derail the Green Machine’s journey towards the semi finals, but four big wins against the Roosters (Rd 16, 42-10), Tigers (Rd 19, 20-18), Dragons (Rd 20, 31-12) and Broncos (Rd 22, 30-18) at Canberra Stadium gave the Raiders the self-belief that they could have a serious crack at the NRL semi-final series.
The Tigers match in round 19 was the third golden point win for the Raiders of the season, and they increased that to four just a few weeks later, when Carney was again the hero in the return match between the two clubs at Campbelltown Stadium, confirming the Raiders rule as the golden point kings.
The final home match of the season was an emotional night for the Raiders, as 20,000 people turned out to farewell six of the clubs favourite sons, with Clinton Schifcofske, Simon Woolford, Jason Smith, Adam Mogg, Michael Hodgson and the 300 game veteran Jason Croker all playing at Canberra Stadium for the last time.
Despite losing that match in a close fought 22-18 encounter, the Raiders narrowly defeated a resurgent Sharks outfit 26-24 in the last round to finish an impressive seventh on the NRL ladder at the end of the regular season.
The Raiders were then eliminated from the competition by a red hot Bulldogs outfit the following week by 30-12 in horrendous conditions at Telstra Stadium, as Coach Matt Elliott said farewell to the club after six years at the helm of the Green Machine.
Raiders lock Alan Tongue was named player of the year for the club after breaking the NRL’s all time tackling record by making 1087 tackles, while other award winners were Adrian Purtell (Rookie of the year), Jason Smith (Clubman of the year), and Clinton Schifcofske (Coaches award).
HENRY ARRIVES IN CANBERRA 2007
In 2007 the Raiders welcomed a new Head Coach with Neil Henry joining his former club from the North Queensland Cowboys. Henry brought a new attitude and direction to the club with a focus on attacking play and ball movement.
Although the Green machine failed to make the finals in Henry’s debut season at the helm they did show signs of what lied ahead for the future, with some resounding wins which showed the Green Machine still had plenty to offer the competition.
In round three the Raiders ushered in the newly scheduled Monday night football with a resounding 48-18 win over the Newcastle Knights, reinforcing their showing as one of the best at home teams in the NRL.
They backed this up with wins against the Roosters (37-28), Panthers (34-18) and the Rabbitohs (16-10), before a memorable 30-6 win over the then high flying St George-Illawarra Dragons.
Unfortunately the team could not string enough wins together in the back end of the season to finish in the top eight and although they finished 14th the scene was set for a tilt at the finals in 2008.
The 2007 player of the year was the stoic prop Scott Logan who picked up the award for an outstanding season in his comeback year to the NRL. After a stint in the English Super League Logan returned to Australia to the Raiders and led the team up front and in the process gave some valuable experience to young prop forwards Dane Tilse and Michael Weyman.
UPS AND DOWNS POLARISE RAIDERS 2008
If you wanted to write a soap opera about one of the Canberra Raiders seasons than 2008 would have been the perfect script. A host of off-field and on-field events took place over the course of the season which defined the Raiders as a club and it seemed the team came together even closer each time they were faced with a new adversity.
After a loss to the Knights in round one the Raiders signaled their intentions in rounds two and three with wins against the Panthers and Dragons to start their season strongly, before some early season jitters saw them start to slip down the NRL ladder.
It took the actions of an individual to spark the Raiders into gear, with the Green Machine facing a huge challenge when promising junior Todd Carney was stood down from playing duties after a string of off-field incidents.
When Carney was sacked a few weeks after his final indiscretion the Raiders needed a new leader to steer them around the park and it came in the form of Queanbeyan junior Terry Campese, who stepped up to the plate and delivered a string of performances which finally showed the promise and talent the Raiders coaching staff new he had.
The Green Machine was starting to hit top gear once again before a second bombshell hit, with news that second year coach Neil Henry was saying adieu at season end to return to North Queensland.
Henry’s announcement was a shock to the playing group and staff and threatened to once again derail the Raiders season, but the swift appointment of David Furner as the future Head Coach and Henry’s assurance that he would stay on until seasons end was all the playing group needed to hear to maintain their focus on reaching the finals.
In the back half of the season all of this controversy provided the spark that the Raiders needed to succeed on field and the side became the toast of the league as they dealt with all comers.
Wins against the Titans (46-4), Knights (38-18) and Rabbitohs (40-25) were all highlights, but the main course was saved for a chilli Sunday afternoon at Canberra Stadium in round 22.
On that day the Raiders showed their fans they meant business with a record breaking 74-12 win over the Penrith Panthers. It was that man Campese who starred on the day scoring four tries and kicking 10 goals to score 36 points, falling just two points short of Mal Meninga’s club record for points in a match. It was only the decision of Captain Alan Tongue to give rookie halfback Marc Herbert the final kick which prevented Campese reaching the milestone.
The Raiders good form however came at a cost with injuries starting to build at the wrong end of the season as the side limped into the semi-finals series in sixth position. The loss against the Sharks in week one spelt the end of the road for the Raiders in 2008 but they would now be known as the new entertainers of the league.
A NEW ERA DAWNS FOR RAIDERS 2009
Once again the club entered a new era in 2009 with club legend David Furner appointed as the new Head Coach, as he realised a boy hood dream from ballboy, to player and then coach.
Furner’s appointment signaled stability to the Raiders organisation as none questioned his loyalty to the club as he started to groom his young chargers for the long haul, vowing to stick by the club at all costs.
The Raiders opened their fountain of youth in 2009 with six players making their NRL debuts, signaling the intentions of the Raiders to focus on developing their own talent for the future.
Josh Dugan, Jarrod Croker, Shaun Fensom, Travis Waddell, Daniel Vidot and Josh McCrone all took their chances when they got them and showed maturity beyond their years to prove the club is in safe hands.
The arrival to the Raiders of David Shillington and Bronson Harrison gave the Raiders forward pack some starch and ushered in a new era of representative stars for the club in a throwback to the glory days of men in green playing representative football.
Joel Monaghan, Terry Campese, Alan Tongue, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Shillington and Harrison all played at representative level in 2009 and dispelled the myth that Raiders players are ignored at this level.
As a team the Raiders were seen as underachievers in 2009 after their efforts the previous season, but those close to the club know the importance of the season as a whole and what was achieved from within the change room.
Publicly the Raiders showed what they have to offer with big wins against Warriors (38-12), Storm (26-16), Broncos (56-0) and Dragons (24-12), but privately they started to believe in themselves and this looked to see the club in safe hands going forward.
THE DREAM MACHINE 2010
The Green Machine became the Dream Machine towards the back end of 2010, with the talented bunch of local products and rising stars defying the critics to finish seventh on the NRL competition ladder.
Mid-season the Raiders looked anything like finals contenders, as they threw away big leads over the Wests Tigers and South Sydney Rabbitohs at home, but a road trip to Manly turned things around for the team as they went on a heart stopping run through the back end of the season to win five straight matches and qualify for the finals.
The dream continued into week one of the finals series with the Raiders first finals win since 2000, as they fought off a hostile home crowd and a fast finishing Panthers outfit to hold on to a memorable 24-22 win.
The build up to the second weekend of finals action saw the Raiders galvanize the Canberra community, as they sold out their home final against the Wests Tigers inside 48 hours.
The capacity crowd at Canberra Stadium was a buzz of emotion and anticipation for 80 minutes, but the home fans were left wondering what could have been, as a late penalty goal from Jarrod Croker sailed wide of the posts and the Tigers held on for a 26-24 win.
Despite the result the fans walked away with their heads held high, with the knowledge that their young team was on the rise and expected to go even further in 2011.
Individually the Raiders had plenty of stars in 2010, with David Shillington (Australia and Qld), Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Australia, NSW, Country Origin), Bronson Harrison (New Zealand), Joel Monaghan (NSW) and Josh Dugan (Country Origin) all playing representative football.
David Shillington also completed a huge back end of the season with the prestigious Meninga Medal, along with the Dally M prop of the year award.
CELEBRATING 30 SEASONS 2011
The Canberra Raiders brought up a significant milestone in 2011 as they celebrated 30 seasons in the NRL.
The 30th season celebrations commenced early in the year with the Raiders first home win of the season in a 40-12 demolition over the Cronulla Sharks at Canberra Stadium, with new recruit Blake Ferguson crossing for the first of his season high 13 tries.
Unfortunately the win was followed by an eight game losing streak which was tipped to hit nine, before the Raiders pulled out a spirited performance to upset the Melbourne Storm on their home turf with a 20-12 win in round 10.
The Raiders showed signs of what they were capable of during the season with a stirring last minute win over the Dragons in round 20, when Josh Dugan pounced on a Josh McCrone kick in the dying stages to score a 24-19 win and keep alive an 11 year hoodoo for the Red V at Canberra Stadium.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Green Machine in 2011, with injury to key players giving some talented rookies the opportunity to step up and show what they could produce, with Sam Williams, Josh Papalii, Nathan Massey and Mick Picker all making an impact in their debut seasons.
Williams in particular was a huge positive in 2011 as he played 18 matches in his first year in the NRL team and showed maturity beyond his years picking up the Raiders rookie of the year award.
In the forward pack it was another Raiders junior who stepped up in 2011 with Shaun Fensom leading the way with a club record 1135 tackles for the season. Fensom’s season was rewarded with the 2011 Meninga Medal, where he dominated the voting to be a clear winner of the award.
In 2011 the club bid farewell to a number of players but none more significant that Captain courageous Alan Tongue, who decided to hang up the boots with one year left on his contract.
The 220 game veteran will be remembered as one of the greats of the club and has been assured he always has a home with the Green Machine at Raiders HQ.