A physically and mentally stronger Curtis Scott demonstrated he has firmly put his 2020 season from hell behind him at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on Sunday night.
Scott set up what turned out to be the match-winning try for Hudson Young and came to the second-rower's aid after he thought Cronulla players had taunted him while down with a knee injury.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart praised Scott for toeing through a wayward Matt Moylan pass and beating two Sharks players to the ball in the lead-up to Young’s try on the stroke of half-time, which proved to be crucial in the 12-10 triumph.
He was also responsible for a melee late in the match as Cronulla fought their way back into the game after running in to push Ronaldo Mulitalo during a stoppage but later explained he thought the Sharks winger had given a gobful to the injured Young.
"I was just looking after my teammate, he was down injured and he looked like he was copping a mouthful when he was on the ground so I am always going to support my teammates," Scott said.
"That’s just footy and we shook hands after the game."
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After joining the Raiders last year under a cloud following charges of assaulting police, which were later dismissed in court, Scott lost more than five kilograms and was dropped by Stuart mid-season for his on-field form.
He also struggled to cope with the NRL’s strict biosecurity protocols as he was unable to socialise with his new teammates and the 23-year-old former Storm centre considered quitting.
However, Scott is back to his top playing weight and showing the benefits of an uninterrupted pre-season.
"I just feel myself again," Scott said. "Obviously I had a pretty tough load last year but that is all behind me now and I can just focus on the job and it has been much easier for me to make relationships with the boys this year, and the coach.
"That goes a long way because when you are on the field you work that extra bit for your mate and I feel like I am in a good headspace and enjoying footy.
"Obviously with COVID I didn’t really get out much and I just tried to keep myself together but this year has been much easier connecting with everyone."
Stuart praised Scott for the way he has bounced back from last year’s woes.
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"Curtis is a completely different person today than what he was this time last year," Stuart said.
"You have only got to look at him physically. He is mid-90s [kg] in body weight now whereas he came back under a fair bit of stress and pressure last year at 89-90-91kg.
"He plays a physical game and you can’t play at that body weight or the lack of body strength he had so it is good he has put that behind him now."
Fancy footwork at the line and Kris has the opener
Fellow Raiders centre Sebastian Kris was also impressive and scored his side’s opening try with good footwork and brute strength near the Cronulla line.
Canberra captain Jarrod Croker is fit to return but Stuart said the form of Kris and Scott had enabled him to avoid rushing the goal-kicking centre back from a shoulder injury.
"It’s a matter now of when we pick him but he has done everything he needed to do from a conditioning and shoulder point of view," Stuart said. "Our medical team has ticked off on everything he needed to do."