Last Saturday’s Away Member’s Function in Sydney proved to be a tremendous success and the Raiders are happy to announce that there will be further Away Member’s Functions on the Gold Coast and Townsville later on in the year.
The full NRL team and the coaching staff hosted the excited group of Raiders Members at the Novotel in Brighton Beach.
The players enjoyed food and drinks with the members and got to know one another on a personal level.
It was wonderful to see so many smiling faces around the room, and special mention must be made to hooker Josh Hodgson who was still smiling even though he was convincingly beaten at table tennis!
“I really enjoyed getting the opportunity to meet some of our Sydney Members before our match against the Roosters,” Hodgson said.
“I’ve seen first-hand how passionate our Canberra-based Members are but it was quite an eye-opener to see how many Members the Raiders have in Sydney.
“It’s fantastic that they still support the team even though they aren’t based in Canberra. I’ve also been told that the club has a lot of Members in Queensland and I look forward to meeting them at the functions we will be holding on the Gold Coast and in Townsville.”
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Raiders Away Member Peter Ferraro was so impressed with the event that he penned this heartfelt letter:
“I want to pass on my heartfelt thanks for the initiative taken by the club and players in hosting the Away Members function in Sydney over the weekend," Ferraro wrote.
"I'm 35 years old now, and have been supporting the Raiders since I was a young kid in the eighties. I grew up on the Central Coast and was attracted to the Raiders due largely to the personality of Mal Meninga and the team's attacking brand of play. It wasn't at all unusual back then to see people walking around my neighbourhood with their green jerseys on - many of aboriginal or islander backgrounds. There was a real pride in the jersey and the team, something that has waned in that part of the world as other teams have moved into the market (and also as the successes of the Green Machine in that early 1990s period past).
I have lived in Sydney now since university, and while I get to the Sydney-based away games and finals whenever I can, and a match at GIO once a year if possible, I have largely resigned myself to never having the connection with the club that would be possible if they were my local club. It only even occurred to me last year for the first time that I could/should join as a member of the Raiders and have taken the Away Memberships these last two years and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. While it's not possible to be a full member and get to come to all the home games (as I would love to if I lived locally), it's just as important that I can contribute to the club and feel part of it.
For most of my life I have felt like a "distant supporter", with no real proper connection to the club other than my personal one. Unless I've been overseas, I have watched almost every game the Raiders have played that's been televised on TV. I buy a new jersey every year, and when I was a kid my room was filled with Raiders paraphernalia. It's still not unusual for someone in my family to buy me something Raiders-branded for birthdays or Christmases.
I'm a lawyer, and I am very much the known "Canberra Raiders man" in whichever workplace I've worked. I really love the team, and nothing gets my adrenaline going as much as anticipating or watching a game we're playing. If I lived in Canberra I'd be a Club 82 Member in a heartbeat.
That's all a lot of lead up to the short message I wanted to make about the importance of initiatives like the Away Members function that was held on Saturday. I attended thinking it would be a line snaking around a long table to shake hands with the players and get things signed. When I got there however it was like a lounge room atmosphere almost, with players sitting in different parts chatting with fans.
They players were all welcoming and down to earth. When I first walked in the room, Josh Papalli walked up to me and introduced himself, and then basically whenever I looked over at a player if they weren't already speaking with another fan they'd look up and put out a hand and ask me how I was etc. The funniest thing perhaps is that they would all introduce themselves by name as if everyone didn't know who they were! The table tennis was a nice touch too, and getting to play a couple of games against Josh Hodgson will rank as one of the best experiences I've had.
For someone like me - who has followed the team with such passion for all my life (my girlfriend will attest to how she hopes we win so I'll be in a good mood that weekend) but never really felt that in-person connection with the club or players, this was a massive experience. It was like meeting movie stars. And normally I'm so down in the dumps when we lose but I didn't even feel that when we went down the next day to the Roosters (and Fenno and Vaughny, as disappointed as they were, were still nice enough to shake my hand on the sideline after the match).
I'm not sure who the initiative was thought up by, but I sincerely thank the club and everyone involved for it. And for the players too who gave it the attention and enthusiasm they did - they had every reason to have bigger things on their minds or to give their attention to, but the way in which Jack and Fenno and Josh - everyone actually it's unfair to single specific players out - smiled and took time with you individually really reinforced in my mind why I think rugby league is the best sport on earth, and why the Canberra Raiders are my team.
Thank you Don and Ricky for the way the club and team are rebuilding, and for initiatives like these that have elevated the Raiders experience for even middle-aged blokes like me.