Rapana gunning for premiership with Raiders
Reigning Dally M Winger of the Year Jordan Rapana didn't need much prompting when asked what he wants this season.
"To win a premiership with the boys would be spectacular," Rapana told NRL.com as he gazed out over the Canberra Raiders training field in suburban Bruce.
"I’ve been here five years now and I’ve definitely seen something grow here since I’ve been around. I definitely believe we have the playing group to pull off a premiership. So I’d love that ultimately."
The Raiders came close in 2016, falling one game short of the NRL Telstra premiership grand final after a gallant 14-12 loss to Melbourne in the preliminary final.
And 28-year-old Rapana did his bit to keep the wheels spinning in 2017, finishing as the club's leading try scorer with 21 from 23 matches, along with 161 tackle breaks and 24 line breaks.
But in the end it wasn’t enough. The Raiders slumped to 10th spot and missed the finals.
Rapana is once again pumped to excel ahead of round one versus the Titans on March 11.
He wants to squeeze every drop out his NRL career which started with the Gold Coast Titans in 2008, but didn’t continue until 2014 with Canberra. In between was a two-year Mormon mission and then time with the now defunct Western Force in Super Rugby.
"I guess I am a senior player now. I’m sort of a late bloomer around the game. I came into the game in a round-about way," Rapana said.
"I’m just grateful to be back in the NRL and making a name for myself. I’m very grateful and I’m just living in the moment. I’m one of the older boys in the club now but I’m not much of a talker. I tend to let my actions do that for me."
It is a trait Rapana has passed on to fellow Raiders winger Nic Cotric, who at 18 made his NRL debut last year. He announced himself emphatically, scoring 16 tries in 24 games.
That won him 2017 Rookie of the Year at the Dally M awards, giving Canberra's flying finishers a superb season double.
"It was pretty good what we achieved," Rapana said. "But it came off the back the team that we have and the attack that can be produced as a team.
"And Nic is just raw talent and natural flair, whether it’s at training or in games. He trains at 110 per cent and you can see that when he’s out there playing. I love watching him play because you never know what you’re going to get.
"He just gives it his all, he will be a superstar. "He’s also really good under the high ball. As he gets older and matures, he will become even better."
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Certainly opposition NRL defences will be ready for Cotric this time.
"I like to think he will handle that well," Rapana said. "He’s a very selfless guy and he’s always about the team. "He’s fresh and enthusiastic and I don’t think anything will worry him for too long."
Rapana is also well aware how much the game has evolved in recent years.
"Back in the day wingers were just out there to jump over the line,'' he said. "A big part now is for wingers to come in and take the ball up like second forwards. We now have the role of giving our teams yardage and getting them on the front foot.
"For me, as much as I like to finish off a big set play with a try, my focus is trying to get as many carries as I can to help the team out – trying to get my hands on the ball as much as I can."