‘If they hurt they care’: Raiders seek home comforts

Jacob Shteyman |

Canberra have endured a tough spell at GIO Stadium in recent weeks.
Canberra have endured a tough spell at GIO Stadium in recent weeks.

Spirits are once again high in the nation’s capital after a thrilling 26-25 golden-point win over the Dolphins and a rejuvenating bye week lifted the Raiders into fifth place in the NRL.

But as his men prepare to welcome a hot-and-cold North Queensland outfit to GIO Stadium on Friday night, coach Ricky Stuart knows the Canberra faithful will be clamouring for a first win on home turf in more than two months.

Two swingeing losses, albeit to formidable foes in Cronulla and the Sydney Roosters, may have some fans questioning why they should bother showing up in the biting cold.

But Stuart wants them to know the players are hurting too – and that’s a good thing.

“They’re as disappointed as the fans walking out early when they’re getting beaten,” he said.

“You come down to those changerooms after a game where we’re disappointed with our performance and it’s not a very nice experience, and I like seeing that.

“I’m as disappointed as the boys but I like seeing that fact that they hurt, because if they’re hurt they’re caring.”

The bye week came at a fortuitous time, with a stack of players physically spent after the hard-fought triumph at Redcliffe two weeks ago.

Hooker Danny Levi and second-rowers Morgan Smithies and Elliott Whitehead are feeling fresh after they were “banged around” by the Dolphins, while Hudson Young is raring to go after failing to make an impact in his State of Origin cameo for NSW.

Eager to stake his claim for a starting role with a big performance will be bench second-rower Trey Mooney, who this week sealed his future with the club until the end of 2027.

With Josh Papalii and Joe Tapine ahead of him in the pecking order, re-signing was a “courageous decision” by the 22-year-old, Stuart said.

“There were a lot of clubs that were chasing Trey that he would have walked into their 17 every week,” he said.

“We had some really good conversations about the fact that he needs to be challenged at this stage of his career.

“Trey will look back on the next two, three years of his football and cherish the fact that he’s learned from some of the best in the game.”

North Queensland welcome back Origin stars Murray Taulagi and Reece Robson to their starting line-up after being thrashed 42-12 by the Warriors on Saturday.

Raiders fullback Jordan Rapana will be looking to inflict more pain on the Cowboys after scoring seven tries in his last four games against them.

His match-winning display against the Dolphins, including two clutch field-goals, earned comparisons to a Raiders legend from his coach.

“When you’re in a time of need, when you’re in a desperate situation, you need your best players to step up to take that pass, take the football, and want the football,” Stuart said.

“I remember playing with Laurie Daley, and every time we were in a tough position he wanted the football and that’s why you become a match winner. That’s what Jordan is.”