The Canberra Raiders will return to the NSW Cup competition in 2021, seeing the club fielding a team in Raiders colours for the first time since 2007.
The Raiders believe it is a great pathways opportunity and is in the best interests of the club’s football program moving forward to field its own open age team in the NSW Cup.
The move to the NSW Cup will see the Raiders drop out of the Jersey Flegg (Under 21s) competition for the 2021 season, with a view to possibly re-entering a team at this level in 2022.
The Raiders NSW Cup squad will be made up of a mixture of NRL squad members and players who have been training for the Raiders Jersey Flegg Cup team so far this pre-season.
Jersey Flegg Coach Peter Marrapodi will also step up to the role of Raiders NSW Cup Coach.
The Raiders will still field teams in the SG Ball (Under 19s), Harold Matthews Cup (Under 17s) and the Tarsha Gale Cup (Women’s under 18s) in 2021.
Raiders Coach Ricky Stuart said the decision allows players not participating in NRL football the opportunity to play at the next best level on offer, helping to continue their development and match fitness.
“We’re really excited to be back in the NSW Cup, with the competition allowing us to get some valuable field time for our NRL squad members,” Stuart said. “The NSW Cup allows our squad to best prepare for NRL football and will allow the coaching staff to see who is performing well enough to come into the first-grade team if required.
“We saw in our last competition game against the Sharks last season the wonderful depth we have in the squad and it will be fantastic to see them get more match time at a high level in 2021.”
Raiders CEO Don Furner said having a NSW Cup team also gave Raiders members and fans the opportunity to see more of the clubs NRL squad players and keep an eye on the next crop of players coming through the clubs system.
“After careful evaluation and feedback from our coaches and pathways staff, we’ve decided that fielding a team on our own in the NSW Cup is best for the club’s football program,” Furner said. “It also gives our members and fans the opportunity to have their own team to support in this competition.
“We haven’t fielded a Raiders team in this competition since 2007 and we know our members and supporters will definitely identify more with a team wearing our famous green jersey. We also look forward to scheduling as many of their matches as we can with our NRL team to enhance the match day experience.
“I’d also like to thank the NRL for providing the extra funding and the NSWRL for re-admitting the Raiders into the NSW Cup at this late stage of the pre-season.”