Canberra Raiders Club Historian David Headon is working towards a comprehensive History of the Raiders, with the working title Absolutely Bleeding Green. Each month he'll be releasing excerpts from the book which is expected to be completed mid-2019.
ANOTHER BLAST FROM THE RAIDERS' 1982 PIONEER PAST
Dave Headon, Raiders Club historian
In February 1982, at the beginning of the Raiders' historic first season in the NSWRL, Channel 9 Rugby League commentator Ron Casey—the 'Mouth from the South'—received considerable publicity when he suggested that newcomer Canberra would not win a game all season. 'Won', as he was sometimes cruelly referred to because of a lisp he had, shaped a career with his outlandish comments but, in Sydney at least, there were plenty of League fans who thought this prediction would be pretty close to the mark.
Raiders' coach, Don Furner, cautious with his own public comments in order to dampen unrealistic expectations, suggested that if the Raiders won four games during the year this would make him a very happy man. Seven games into the comp, when the side had absorbed a few heavy defeats culminating in the mighty Parramatta Eels team inflicting a 54-3 thrashing (and under pressure from the media to explain a few of his selection decisions), Furner reassessed his pre-season prediction. He made it two. The atmosphere at training in the cold, winless at that point in season one, must have been a challenge for both team and staff. Was Casey going to be right after all?
Thus, to two more Raider Trivial Pursuit questions for the faithful who know their team's deeper history. Firstly: how many wins did the team manage in its first season (and it wasn't zero)? And secondly, who did they beat?
The week after the Parra game, the Raiders came up against Newtown at Seiffert, in front of nearly 10,000 fans craving a maiden victory. Close to full-time, with Newtown in front, former Canberra Galloper Chris O'Sullivan, destined to write his own pages in our illustrious history, scored a fine try off a Dave Reid pass near full-time. Steve O'Callaghan calmly knocked over the conversion for an epic 12-11 win.
In early June the Raiders hosted Souths, who had touched them up at Redfern in the first game of the season. The Raiders reversed this result, winning 23-18 in front of a bulging crowd, an excited, loud crowd, of 12,954. Then came St George at the beginning of July, beaten 25-22 in front of nearly 14,000!! locals at Seiffert. And finally, in what must have been incredibly satisfying for the team, the Raiders came up against fellow newcomer Illawarra Steelers, who had handed the boys a 45-0 walloping in Wollongong in late April--only to see that result reversed in Queanbeyan in early August, 26-19.
The team had come a very long way in a matter of months. It had stayed tight, with a mixture of skill, determination and sheer guts, to create the platform for the future. Ron Casey, to his credit, sent a telegram a day or two later, which simply read: 'Sincere congratulations: JC is infallible; RC is not'. Don Furner was a very happy man.