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CHN has Raiders marching to the beat of their own drum

When Sia Soliola announced his retirement and hung up the boots last season, Corey Harawira-Naera politely requested to have the former Raider's name embroidered onto his shoulder.

As with the rich rugby league history in Canberra, every current player has a former player's number stitched on to remember those who have walked before them.

For Harawira-Naera, who has Soliola's number 326, he's taken it one further step this year by becoming the fans' new go-to player in beating the drums.

Quite literally.

A tradition Soliola once held after victories both at home and away, Harawira-Naera now greets superfan Simon, also known as the Raiders drummer, to help start a viking clap post-match.

Corey Harawira-Naera wears the numbers 326 on his training jersey as respect to former Raider Sia Soliola.
Corey Harawira-Naera wears the numbers 326 on his training jersey as respect to former Raider Sia Soliola. ©Canberra Raiders

"Sia was really big for me when I first got to the club a couple of years ago," Harawira-Naera told 

"When we got to the prelim in 2020 he really brought the fans into it and as soon as he retired I thought I’d love to have him on my shoulder.

"I think that was the beginning of banging the drum. Simon asked me if I wanted to and I thought someone has to keep this going.

"It’s cool to be able to celebrate with fans especially at away games, it really hits different. I probably won’t know the magnitude of what it means yet until I finish up but I’m learning how much it means to people."

After almost three seasons in the nation's capital and a second finals series, Harawira-Naera is coming into his own in lime green and will provide a huge role on Friday night after earning a start following Adam Elliott's injury.

The former Panther and Bulldog marvelled at what starting middles Joseph Tapine and Josh Papalii were able to do against the Storm forward pack last week and said it was as simple as "filling in the gaps" for the club's big-name players.

"Getting to the finals is hard because it’s every game and every week, but once you’re here you can see the finishing line and the pressure goes up again," he said.

"But we’ve got a lot of guys who have played in the finals before and it becomes a new game.

"We just knew if we could get ourselves into the finals then no team will want to play us.

"We’ve just got to stay as fresh as we can now and let the big boys do their thing and who knows who else might step up."

Eels v Raiders

For young gun centre Matt Timoko, who lit up AAMI Park last week to finish off a long-range team effort, he leans on another experienced leader in injured captain Jarrod Croker, who continues to work with the team.

"Our backline is very young apart from some experience on the wings so we're learning as we go and did really well for our first finals game," Timoko said.

"Crokes is a legend of the game and is a mentor to me if I need him, he's definitely one to go to for advice."

Acknowledgement of Country

Canberra Raiders respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.