2013 – Wasn’t easy being green in 2013
2013 was set to be a monumental year for the Raiders with Canberra celebrating its Centenary year and the Green Machine strongly tipped to improve on their exciting 6th place finish in 2012.
The Raiders squad had increased in depth with the emergence of several exciting young prospects coupled with the acquisition of quality back-rowers in Joel Edwards and Jake Foster.
Off the field, the club also welcomed a new Assistant Coach in Brett Kimmorely and highly regarded Strength and Conditioning Coach Nigel Ashley Jones.
The Raiders won both trials against last year’s Grand Finalists, Melbourne Storm and the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs which left the side’s fans brimming with excitement as to the forthcoming success in 2013.
Alas, nobody could have predicted the turmoil which was to unfold as a series of off field distractions ultimately derailed the Raiders season.
After an opening round loss to the Penrith Panthers, star fullback Josh Dugan was sacked from the club and Blake Ferguson stood down for disciplinary reasons.
Given the tremendous depth at the club, the Raiders recovered from the loss of Dugan and registered fantastic victories against the arch rivals St George Illawarra, eventual premiers the Sydney Roosters and a win over the reigning premiers the Storm, in Melbourne.
After the early cluster of wins, inconsistency crept into the Raiders form although they still remained a chance of making the semi-finals for most of the year.
Unfortunately, off-field incidents again affected the side’s momentum.
Ferguson was sacked from the club for again breaching the club’s code of conduct and winger Sandor Earl was the first player to be charged for the use and trafficking of peptides by the ASADA investigation.
This happened around the same time that David Furner was sacked as coach with Assistant Coach Andrew Dunemann taking the reins for the remainder of the year.
Despite all of the off field turmoil that the club encountered in 2013, there were still various positives to come out of the year.
Canberra hosted a Test match between Australia and New Zealand for the first time in what proved to be a wonderful highlight for the ACT community in the Capital’s centenary year.
The Raiders enjoyed the highest representation in the All Stars fixture with Ferguson, Foster, Reece Robinson, Joel Thompson and Jack Wighton all representing the Indigenous side and David Shillington being named for the NRL side.
The Raiders also featured highly at other representative levels with Josh Papalii (Queensland, Australia), Shillington (Queensland), Ferguson (Country, NSW), Josh McCrone (Country), Wighton (Country), Williams (Country) and a host of players named to play for their country at the World Cup.
The emergence of Anthony Milford, who claimed the Meninga Medal in his debut year, was another positive and is indicative of the bright future ahead for the Green Machine given the brilliant young talent coming through the junior ranks.
The year concluded with former great Ricky Stuart being named as Coach of the side in 2014.
2014 – Challenging season in the green
Ricky Stuart’s first season as head coach proved to be a difficult and challenging time for the Raiders, as Stuart set about rebuilding from a disappointing 2013 season.
The season itself was a rollercoaster ride of stirring wins and disappointing losses, as the team failed to find consistency and managed to finish the year with just eight wins and 15th place on the NRL ladder.
The Raiders biggest win of the season was a 42-12 thumping of the Cowboys at GIO Stadium, but four losses in a row following the big win made it difficult for the Raiders to fight their way into finals contention.
Stuart used 2014 to develop a number of younger players, with the likes of Josh Papalii, Jack Wighton and Jarrad Kennedy establishing themselves as regular first grade players for the club.
Jarrod Croker showed why he’d been earmarked for future success with an outstanding season, as he showed consistency and maturity in his game to be eventually named as the Meninga Medalist for the clubs best player in 2014.
By the end of the regular season the Raiders had gone through a changing of the guard in terms of leadership, with Terry Campese replaced by Croker as the Captain of the team for the final three matches of the season, as the Raiders salvaged some pride with three wins to end the year.
Campese departed the club in the off-season, while 2014 also saw Brett White retire from the game after a wonderful career for the Raiders and Storm, where he represented Country, NSW and Australia.
2015 – Close losses prove to be the difference
2015 was a season of near misses for the Canberra Raiders, with six losses by only four points or less. This proved to be the deciding factor in the Raiders finals ambitions, as they ultimately finished 10th on the ladder, four points outside the eight.
The overhaul of the Raiders squad continued in 2015 with several new highly promising acquisitions including Blake Austin, Sisa Waqa, Josh Hodgson, Sam Williams, Frank-Paul Nu’uausala and Sia Soliola.
Led by Coach Ricky Stuart in his second season in charge, the Raiders exhibited plenty of potential throughout the season, rising as high as 5th place on the ladder after round nine. Jarrad Croker spent his first year as captain and led the Raiders with maturity beyond his years, despite being the youngest captain in the NRL.
The season was marked by a series of disappointing losses at home, leading to the Raiders worst home record ever with just three victories and nine losses. These losses, especially in the second half of the season, prevented the Raiders finals ambitions.
The season highlight came in round seven, when the Green Machine rallied back from 22-0 down against the Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval to secure a memorable 30-22 win. It was the biggest comeback in Raiders history and showcased the tenacity and never say die attitude of the team under Ricky Stuart.
In his first season with the Raiders, Sia Soliola was rewarded for his tremendous form, winning the Mal Meninga medal. At the end of season Dally M awards, new recruit Blake Austin took out five-eighth of the year, while Jarrad Croker repeated his 2012 efforts as NRL top point scorer. Josh Papalii also showed plenty of good form in 2015 as he reclaimed his Queensland Origin jersey in the Maroons series win.
The end of the season saw the farewell of stalwart David Shillington to the Gold Coast Titans as well as 100 game players Glen Buttriss and Josh McCrone. Dane Tilse departed the club mid-season after 200 matches for the club.
2016 - Back to the glory days
The Canberra Raiders exceeded expectations in 2016, finishing the season in second place and making the preliminary finals for the first time in the NRL era.
Highly touted new recruits Aidan Sezer and Elliott Whitehead joined the squad for the new season, while mid-season transfers Joseph Tapine and Junior Paulo immediately fitted into a forward pack full of firepower.
After a solid start to the season, the Raiders came alive in the charge to the finals, winning ten-straight matches and setting a club record of 688 points scored in the regular season. The scintillating form secured the Raiders second spot on the ladder and a home qualifying final.
The Sharks emerged victorious in the first week of finals, before the Raiders bounced back in week two to send the Panthers packing and book a preliminary final spot against the Storm. In tough circumstances at AAMI Park in Melbourne, the Storm edged the Raiders out by two points to finish what had been an incredible season by the green machine.
For only the third time in the Raiders history, the Meninga Medal was a tie, with Josh Hodgson and Josh Papalii unable to be split. Jordan Rapana and Joey Leilua also couldn't be split, taking home the Coaches Award. Sia Soliola was a worthy choice for the Clubman of the Year, while Clay Priest collected the Rookie of the Year.
The Raiders also enjoyed one of their most successful nights at the Dally M Awards in history. Jarrod Croker's tremendous season was rewarded with the Captain of the Year and the Fan's Choice Provan-Summons Medal. In his third season in charge, Ricky Stuart took out the Coach of the Year, while Joey Leilua's stunning form saw him pick up the Centre of the Year.
In his second year as captain Croker was a standout, breaking the Raiders all-time leading point-scoring and points in a season records. The combination of centre Joey Leilua and winger Jordan Rapana on the Raiders right edge also set the NRL alight, as they combined for a huge number of tries, line-breaks and tackle busts.
2016 saw the departures of Sam Williams, Paul Vaughan, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Sisa Waqa and Mitch Barnett from the club.
2017 – Heartbreaking losses prove costly
The Raiders were left disappointed in 2017 after losing three matches in golden point.
Expectations were high after the late season run in 2016 tipped the green machine to be contenders for the 2017 season.
The Raiders first match against the Cowboy ended in heartbreak after a freakish late try to Gavin Cooper handed Ricky Stuart's side their first defeat of the campaign.
After losing six of their first 17 matches it was backs against the wall for the Raiders before a late season run brought back a glimmer of hope for a finals finish with crucial away wins against the South Sydney Rabbitohs, Cronulla Sharks and New Zealand Warriors. A close loss against the Penrith Panthers all but eliminated any hope of a finals appearance for the Raiders in 2017.
In only his first full season with the club, Junior Paulo was awarded the Meninga Medal for 2017. English international Elliott Whitehead was a worthy winner of Ricky Stuart's coaches award while Nick Cotric was the undisputed choice for Rookie of the year while also claiming the Dally M Rookie of the year award. Jeff Lima was presented with the Fred Daly Memorial Clubman of the year award in his final season playing in the NRL.
Jordan Rapana finished the 2017 as the club's leading try scorer with 21. Nick Cotric finished with 16 tries in only his first full season.
2017 saw the departures of Kurt Baptiste, Lachlan Croker, Jeff Lima, Clay Priest, Zac Santo, Scott Sorensen and Dave Taylor.
2018 - Close losses prove costly
In 2018 the Raiders were left with a feeling of déjà vu as they finished the campaign in 10th position on the ladder as they failed to shut out tight games, losing eight games by less than six points.
The green machine were dealt a serious blow towards the end of 2017 season as hooker Josh Hodgson sustained an ACL injury in England’s semi final clash with Tonga in Auckland.
Hope of returning to the finals was high with the arrivals of Charlie Gubb, Siliva Havili, Sam Williams, Brad Abbey, and Ata Hingano.
The Raider's first match ended in heartbreak as a try in the final minute to Konrad Hurrell sealed the game for the Titans after the Raiders were leading 18-0 inside the first 20 minutes.
After losing their first four matches, the green machine were forced to play catch up to the rest of the competition and despite showing some solid form midway through the campaign, the Raiders suffered four straight losses during July through to August to seal their fate for the 2017 season.
Two back to back wins at home against the high flying Rabbitohs and Roosters provided some optimism ahead of the 2019 season with the emergence of talented young forwards Emre Guler and Jack Murchie, however a disappointing loss to the Warriors in round 25 saw the green machine sign off on the 2018 season in 10th place.
After receiving criticism from the media in pre-season due to his playing fitness, Josh Papalii was rightfully awarded the Meninga Medal as he produced some phenomenal displays in 2018. Nick Cotric received the Coach’s award from Ricky Stuart after backing up his debut season form. Cotric finished with 12 tries and narrowly missed out on selection for Brad Fittler’s NSW State of Origin side. Michael Oldfield received the Fred Daly Club man of the year award, Joseph Tapine received the Geoff Caldwell Welfare and Education award whilst Jack Murchie was crowned with the Gordon McLucas Memorial Junior Representative Player of the Year award.
Joey Leilua finished the 2018 season as the club’s leading try scorer with 14 tries.
2018 saw the departures of Blake Austin, Shannon Boyd, Charlie Gubb, Liam Knight and Junior Paulo.
2019 - Return to the Grand Final
2019 proved to be one of the Raiders most pivotal seasons in recent history with a return to the Grand Final.
John Bateman and Ryan Sutton arrived at the club, fresh from winning the Super League with the Wigan Warriors. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad arrived from the New Zealand Warriors while JJ Collins and Tom Starling arrived from the Tigers and Knights respectively. Bailey Simonsson joined from the All Blacks sevens Rugby Union side while Hudson Young and Corey Horsburgh made their mark on the side during the 2019 season.
Stuart's men started the 2019 campaign by recording a 21-0 victory over the Titans at CBUS Super Stadium. This match was the first of three shutout victories. The other two came against the Eels in Round 5 (19-0) and the Tigers in Round 13 (28-0).
Throughout the course of the 2019 season, the Raiders shifted between 3rd and 4th place on the ladder.
Despite the Raiders' high place on the ladder many still felt that their failure to beat a top-five side meant that they couldn't be considered genuine Premiership contenders.
In Round 22, the green machine travelled down to Melbourne to face the runaway ladder leaders the Melbourne Storm. A late try to Josh Papalii secured a memorable and vital 22-18 win for Canberra despite trailing 18-0 at half time.
The Raiders finished the regular 2019 season in 4th place meaning that they would travel to Melbourne in week one of the finals.
Despite enduring more adversity throughout the match the Raiders snatched victory at the death with John Bateman crossing over under the posts to send Canberra into a home Preliminary Final.
A record NRL crowd of 26, 567 at GIO Stadium saw the Raiders take on the Rabbitohs for a spot in the 2019 Grand Final. Despite leading 10-6 with ten minutes to go, the Raiders endured continuous pressure from South Sydney and even had fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad sent to the sin-bin. Josh Papalii crashed over under the posts to all but seal their place in the Grand Final. A late try to Campbell Graham meant that the game would go down to the last play however the green machine held out their opponents 16-10 for a spot in their first Grand Final in over 25 years.
The Raiders faced the Roosters in the 2019 NRL Grand Final. Sam Verrills crossed over early on for the Roosters before Jack Wighton sliced his way through to cross over for the green machine. James Tedesco sealed the win for the Roosters late in the second half to ensure the Raiders' season ended in heartbreak. Jack Wighton was awarded the Clive Churchill medal for his outstanding display in front of 82.922 fans at ANZ Stadium.
Jarrod Croker finished the season as the Raiders leading try scorer with 13 tries while Josh Papalii was crowned the 2019 Meninga Medal winner for the third time in his career.
2020 - Raiders fall one game short
2020 proved to have several challenges for the NRL competition as a whole, while the Raiders bowed out in the Preliminary Final.
George Williams and Curtis Scott arrived at the club for the 2020 season, while Corey Harawira-Naera joined the club mid-season from the Bulldogs. Harley Smith-Shields was also upgraded from a development contract.
The Raiders got their 2020 campaign off to a good start, winning the first two games of the season before the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to the competition.
The competition was suspended on March 23, with the season eventually resuming on May 28. Because of the suspension, the season was reduced to 20 rounds, with the State of Origin series played following the NRL Finals.
The Raiders started off the resumed competition where they left off, defeating the Storm in Round three to make it three straight wins to start the season.
Mixed results up until the midway mark of the year put the Raiders’ season in jeopardy, losing four of their next six games.
The Raiders then won nine of their last 11 matches to finish fifth on the ladder at the end of the regular season.
GIO Stadium played host to the Raiders elimination final against the Sharks in Week 1 of the finals, with two tries to both Jack Wighton and George Williams helping the Raiders to a 32-20 win.
Week 2 of the finals saw the Raiders travel to the SCG in a 2019 Grand Final rematch against the Sydney Roosters. The Raiders raced out to an early lead, with tries to Josh Papalii, George Williams and Joe Tapine giving the green machine a 16-6 lead at half time. The Roosters hit back in the second half but a gutsy defensive effort from the Raiders saw them hold on 22-18 to progress to the Preliminary Final.
The Raiders headed to Suncorp Stadium to meet the Storm in the Preliminary Final. After a week off, the Storm started the game in style, with three tries in the first nine minutes seeing them race out to a 24-6 lead at the break. Two tries to Nick Cotric wasn’t enough for a Raiders’ comeback, with the Storm progressing to the Grand Final with a 30-10 win.
Jack Wighton was rewarded for his stellar season, winning the 2020 Dally M Medal. Wighton became the first Raider since Laurie Daley in 1995 to win the game’s highest individual honour.
Wighton was also named Dally M Five-Eighth of the Year, with Josh Papalii named as one of the Props of the Year.
Wighton and Papalii were also named as joint winners of the 2020 Meninga Medal, the fourth time Papalii has won the award. Ryan Sutton received the Coaches Award, while Semi Valemei was named NRL Rookie of the Year.
Dunamis Lui was recognised for his contribution to the club, named the Fred Daly Club Person of the Year, while Matt Frawley received the Geoff Caldwell Welfare and Education Award.
In his final season at the club, Nick Cotric finished the year as the club’s leading try scorer for 2020 with 14 tries, while Jarrod Croker was the leading point scorer, with 162 points for the season.
Wighton and Papalii’s season wasn’t over yet, both picked for their respective states for the 2020 Origin Series in November. Papalii’s Maroons provided a huge upset, winning games 1 and 3 to take the series 2-1.
2020 saw the departures of John Bateman, Nick Cotric, Michael Oldfield and Andre Niko, while Luke Bateman, Jack Murchie and JJ Collins departed midway through the season.
2021 - Injuries and departures prove costly
2021 proved to be a tough season for the Raiders, with injuries and mid-season departures contributing to the team missing the finals for the first time since 2018.
Ryan James and Caleb Aekins joined the Raiders, with Jordan Rapana and Sia Soliola also extending their time at the club to play in 2021. Harry Rushton was another addition to the Raiders Top 30 squad, joining the club on a three-year deal from the Wigan Warriors.
The Raiders started the year off strongly with three wins from their first four games, with wins over the Tigers, Sharks and Titans.
A 30-10 loss against the Panthers in Round 5 saw the Raiders start a five-match losing streak. A neck injury to Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad in this game saw him miss the majority of the season, only returning in Round 23.
Amid the growing COVID-19 pandemic in New South Wales in the middle of the year, teams were relocated to Queensland in July, resulting in the Raiders being based out of the Gold Coast from Round 18 onwards.
After mixed results during the midway stages of the season, the Raiders won three consecutive games between Round 17-19 to keep their season alive.
The Raiders won two of their last three games of the season to be in finals contention, however their Round 25 loss to the Sydney Roosters saw them bow out of the finals race and end the season in 10th place.
Jack Wighton and Josh Papalii once again represented their respective states in 2021, with Wighton helping the Blues to a 2-1 series win. Wighton played off the bench for the first two games before getting his chance at five-eighth in Game 3. Papalii missed the opening Origin match due to suspension but played the next two games, including the Maroons win in Game 3.
Jordan Rapana was recognised for his incredible season, awarded the 2021 Meninga Medal. Tom Starling received the Coaches Award, with Harley Smith-Shields and Matt Timoko sharing the NRL Rookie of the Year honours.
Trainer Grant Hogan was named the Fred Daly Memorial Club Person of the Year, while Trey Mooney received the Gordon McLucas Memorial Junior Representative Player of the Year. Kai O’Donnell was named NSW Cup Player of the Year, while Matt Frawley received the NSW Cup Coaches Award.
Elliott Whitehead was awarded the Geoff Caldwell Welfare and Education Award and was also named in the RLPA’s Academic Team of the Year.
Jordan Rapana finished the season as the Raiders’ leading try scorer with 12 tries, with Jarrod Croker the leading points scorer with 80 points in an injury interrupted season.
Croker continued to reach milestones in 2021, becoming the third highest point scorer in NRL history, overtaking Johnathan Thurston.
After 17 seasons playing professional rugby league, Sia Soliola announced his retirement following the 2021 season. Soliola played 336 matches across the NRL and Super League, including 137 games for the Raiders across seven seasons.
The Raiders farewelled Dunamis Lui, Siliva Havili, Darby Medlyn, Ryan James and Caleb Aekins at the end of the season, with George Williams, Curtis Scott, Kai O’Donnell and Adam Cook departing throughout the season.