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.