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Jubilant Raiders prop Josh Papalii.

Defence was the focus for Canberra coach Ricky Stuart before a ball was kicked and the response from his squad went beyond what many experts envisioned - to within a whisker of grand final victory.

That six-again call may have stolen the headlines and will forever burn all those in the nation's capital but the Green Machine were far more than just underdogs challenging the defending champions in the 2019 decider. 

Jack Wighton's positional switch to five-eighth proved a masterstroke by Stuart throughout the season and the addition of John Bateman added a level of skill and resilience the club required if they were going to challenge for the title. 

The Raiders went from a side guilty of second-half fade-outs in 2018 to an outfit who fought for the entire 80 minutes and scrapped for everything. 

Raiders' top five tries of 2019

Canberra Raiders: 2019 season by the numbers

Home and Away record

Home record: 6-6. Away record: 9-3.

Rarely would a side within arm's reach of a title finish with a 50% record at home but that turned out to be the result for the Green Machine with an even split six wins and six losses for the season.

They averaged 18.7 points at GIO Stadium, down by 2.7 points per game on average compared to the rest of the competition.

Their 9-3 away record was far better and equalled their best in a season since 2003 with 25 points scored per game and just 14.5 conceded on average. 

Attack had never really been an issue for the club over the past decade but the defensive areas blew recent struggles out of the ballpark with just 374 conceded (13.85 per game) for the season - the best numbers for the club in 23 years. 

Post-contact metres

Canberra produced solid numbers in this area of the game to average 476 metres per outing, ranking them fifth behind the Warriors, Broncos, Storm and Wests Tigers.

Player of the year Josh Papalii led from the front to finish in the NRL's top 10 with 52.3 metres per game.

His overall total of 1204m fell behind only Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Daniel Tupou for the season.

Breakout star Charnze Nicholl-Klokstad came in second for the club with 984m, followed by Bailey Simonsson, John Bateman and Corey Horsburgh.

Ricky Stuart's men were among the best at conceding post contact metres too, with just 437 conceded on average.

Eventual premiers the Roosters (438m) and Storm (405m) joined them in the top four. 

Tries scored channel

The Raiders scored 88 tries in 2019 to be ranked fifth in the competition at an average of 3.7 tries per game.

A total of 48 tries came in the first half with their strongest time period coming before halftime with 13 tries scored.

Their 10-minute period after the break was their weakest with only six tries in total.

The left channel attack of Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Jack Wighton, Jarrod Croker and Nick Cotric enjoyed most of the try-scoring spoils with 46 tries coming from their side of play.

Croker scored a season-high 12 tries for the club with Nicoll-Klokstad finishing on 11.

Tries conceded channel

Canberra conceded 64 tries at an average of 2.7 per game to be third-best behind the Storm and Roosters.

Analysis indicates the Raiders conceded 30% of their tries in the first 20 minutes of the second half of matches.

The left edge may have fired in attack but their defensive efforts came up short in comparison with the right side.

The left centre-wing combination conceded 22 tries for the year, an increase of 10 compared to their right-side teammates in the same area.

However, the centre-to-left of the paddock (back-rower and halve) conceded an impressive four tries across the season – the best in the competition.

Tries conceded from penalties

The Raiders conceded 173 penalties to be ranked fifth-worst team in the competition but only 24 of those led to tries in 2019.

Josh Hodgson (21), Jack Wighton (16) and Elliott Whitehead were among the side's biggest culprits in the discipline area.

Hodgson was pinned for 14 play-the-ball penalties around the ruck throughout the season, joining Angus Crichton and Andrew Fifita to lead the unwanted stat in the competition.

Metres gained from offload

The Raiders finished mid-range for gaining metres following an offload with an average of 65.1 per game.

John Bateman (35), Josh Papalii (27), Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Corey Horsburgh (both 22) finished in the top three for offloads.

Papalii's efforts created an additional 260.6m for his side, while Nicoll-Klokstad benefited most when he wasn't producing one of his own with seven metres on average per offload received.

Jarrod Croker, Jack Wighton, Jordan Rapana and Nick Cotric also showed their class as support players to accumulate a total over 100m throughout the season from an offload.

Goal-kicking accuracy

Raiders co-captain Jarrod Croker managed to play every game in 2019 and resumed his regular kicking duties to record a 75% success rate for the season.

This figure was down on Croker's usual numbers with the sharpshooter having more attempts at goal than in recent years given the side's attacking brilliance this season.

Surprisingly, Croker struggled on the preferred sideline for left-foot goal kickers with only a 29% conversion rate on the right edge.

He improved slightly to 39% on the left sideline.  

Croker sits on 1996 career points and is poised to break the 2000-barrier in round one against the Titans next season.

The Charnze effect

Much has been made about Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad's stunning rise at fullback for the Raiders but it's the little areas that the ex-Warrior excelled in 2019.

Nicoll-Klokstad finished on top of the competition for reading kicks to record 1065.1m for the season.

This figure was well above next in line Dylan Edwards (884 metres) and James Tedesco (818m) with Nicoll-Klokstad recording a respectable 82.1% in terms of catching the ball on the full from a kick.

Nicoll-Klokstad also finished the season with a competition-high 11 escapes from the in-ball area from 13 attempts.

Tries conceded from kicks

Canberra's spine dominated with the boot in another positive for the side but it was their efforts in defence when defending the opposition's kicks that made the attacking figure stand out.

The Raiders scored 26 tries from a kick to average a tick over one per game. In return, they conceded just nine for the season for a +17 difference.

Regular outside backs Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (78) Bailey Simonsson (23), Jordan Rapana (17) Jarrod Croker (13) and Nick Cotric (10) finished in the club's top five for kicks defused.

One-on-one boost

English pair Elliott Whitehead and John Bateman were among the NRL's top 10 for one-on-one tackle efficiency, also highlighting the side's dominance with their ability to attempt one-on-one steals.

Whitehead finished the competition ranked second behind Gavin Cooper for effective one-on-one tackles with 54 from 96 attempts.

Bateman's efficiency was far greater from his 54 attempts with a 70.4% strike rate.

Notorious stripper Josh Hodgson didn't feature in the Raiders' top six for this statistic but finished the regular season with 12 one-on-one steals – three times more than any other player in the competition.

It was remarkably more than all other teams' totals bar Melbourne in 2019.