Last season we had a member writing from the Stands, who can't do it this year because he's overseas. Even though he's away, he's still put this together about his experiences following the Raiders abroad.
From far Away Lands
For the past few years I have missed very few Raiders games. In fact in 2011 and 2012 I didn't miss a single game. However, 2014 is a very different experience for me. I will only see the last two games plus hopefully finals as I am travelling around the world. I left on the 22 February and am not back in Australia until 30 August - right in time for our round 25 clash against the Tigers.
Over the past couple of years the Raiders have asked me to write a column for the website giving a fans point of view of the game. They have asked me to write some articles this year about what it is like following the team from far away.
I should also add to that I am still a paid up member and I really encourage those of you in Canberra to also jump on board. The first five weeks have been promising and now we finally get some home games hopefully we can notch up a few more wins.
After one night in Auckland catching up with New Zealand's biggest Raiders fan, I have spent the first part of the season in South America. I can only say what an amazing continent and people. It has really only been in recent years that Australians have travelled to South America and I can really recommend it. I went to Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Peru and Bolivia. You do need a sense of adventure because the life in particularly the poorer countries like regional Peru and Bolivia is very different to what we are used to. Let me also tell you that being at altitude is hard work.
So how easy is it to follow the Raiders from the other side of the world? Well if you have a decent internet connection not that difficult, but in South America there is not always a fast internet connection. There is a fantastic service that is available called Livestream (new.livestream.com) which allows you to stream the games in any country that doesn't have the NRL on pay tv (so basically everywhere bar Australia, NZ or England.) The coverage is Fox or Channel 9 and provided your internet connection is fast enough, it comes up great on the Ipad. You can also watch the replay later on. The radio coverage is also available through the NRL app.
Here is how I have seen the first five games.
Round 1 v Cowboys
I was in São Paulo Brazil. The late Queensland kick off time worked well with a 7am Brazil time start but after dancing the Samba at a nightclub to about 2.30am it was a struggle to get up for kick off. Also the hotel internet hadn't been very good. I got up and got the streaming to work and was excited that we were 12-0 up. The streaming worked to about half time but then I found a computer in the hotel lobby and watched the rest on that. You could just tell the Cowboys were going to come back. In the end Thurston was the difference.
Round 2 v Knights
I was in Salto Uruguay. At this hotel the internet was really good. The disappointing thing however was the game started at 4.30am but we had to leave to catch a bus just after 6am. I watched it up to about 55 mins when scores were level. I then had to leave so I had my girlfriend sending me texts every couple of mins with updates. I was very pleased we got over the line. I ended up seeing the replay a few days later and Milford was something special in that game.
Round 3 v Titans
Was in Lima Peru. Internet was pretty good but the start time of 2.30am wasn't overly friendly especially as I had to be up early that morning. Never the less I got up and watched it. I really thought we had them on toast at half time. I have no doubt that Greg Bird deliberately missed that penalty near the end so that they would get the ball back. A very disappointing loss and a wasted opportunity at home. Losing Edrick Lee for the season was a devastating blow.
Round 4 v South Sydney
I still haven't see one of our great wins in recent years. I was in the middle of camping on the Inca Trail a four day walk to Micchu Picchu. Let me tell you this walk was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Walking up and down stairs that are massive and very slippery, by the time this game was on, every part of me was in pain. Needless to say, when you don't have proper toilets, mobile connection and the only safe way of getting water is to take it from the stream and the boil it, there was no wifi to stream football games. I was exhausted when I finally got to Agua Caliente town and I turned my phone on to see we had smashed the Rabbitohs. I still haven't been anywhere to be able to watch the replay but I look forward to doing so eventually.
Round 5 v Panthers
I was in La Paz Bolivia and it is fair to say that the country is a long way less developed than the lifestyle we enjoy. The hotel did have free wifi but it wasn't very strong so I had to settle to listening to the radio coverage with Packy and Toungey on the ABC. Not sure why Tim Gavel wasn't calling the game. I must say Toungey is very good on the commentary. It really sounded like we did a good job to hang in the game but never really looked threatening.