It’s the million-dollar question for Canberra fans: are the Raiders the real deal in 2019?
Before round 22, the Green Machine had copped much criticism for failing to beat a top-five team this season, despite sitting third on the ladder.
Questions were raised about whether the Raiders were genuine premiership contenders – but the doubters were silenced after Canberra’s emphatic 22-18 victory against Melbourne at AAMI Park last Saturday.
The result was the first time the Storm had blown an 18-0 lead in the club’s history and signalled their first back-to-back losses at home since 2015.
The victory may have proved the Raiders are genuine contenders, however gun five-eighth Jack Wighton doesn’t want to buy into the hype.
“We know we can do something special, but we like being the underdogs sometimes,” Wighton tells Big League.
“There have been a lot of critics. When times get tough they love to give it to us, but when we’re winning they like to say we’re the real deal.
"So we know we can’t let the outside noise affect us. We’ve got to focus on our job and not get distracted.
"We’ve put ourselves in a great position this year and it would be a shame to let this opportunity go.”
Wighton labelled the AAMI Park win as one of the best regular-season games of his career. It was his first win in Melbourne since 2013 after suffering some heartbreaking losses there over the past few years.
Sitting third on the ladder, the Raiders are eager to lock down a top-four finish for the first time since 2016 to guarantee a home final and a second bite of the cherry.
That year they played Cronulla and Penrith at home, and the stadium shook when the players ran out to the Viking Clap.
“A top-four finish would be awesome – that’s what we’re striving for,” Wighton said.
“To get a home final would really bring the city of Canberra alive. It would be amazing running out in front of a packed stadium.”
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