Raiders’ defence has ‘turned the corner’: Ricky Stuart

Jasper Bruce |

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart is confident the Raiders have fixed their defensive issues.
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart is confident the Raiders have fixed their defensive issues.

Ricky Stuart feels Canberra’s defence has “turned the corner” ahead of their clash against Newcastle.

The Raiders bled 82 points across losses to North Queensland and Wests Tigers in rounds 15 and 16 before cleaning their act up against Melbourne last week.

Dominated in the battle for possession, the Raiders needed to make 122 more tackles than the Storm but were gallant in a 16-6 loss at AAMI Park.

Canberra have suffered another setback for the Newcastle match, with Hudson Young ruled out with a groin tightness.

The former NSW State of Origin second-rower is only expected to miss one match, with the Raiders having the bye next week.

But regardless, the improved effort against the Storm has buoyed Stuart ahead of Sunday’s clash in Canberra.

“We gave up too much football, too much possession, we dropped far too much ball to give ourselves a chance (against the Storm), but defensively I think we turned a corner there from the two games before,” said Stuart.

Some of the Raiders’ meekest defensive showings this season have come at GIO Stadium, with the side bleeding an average of 39 points across its last three games there.

But Stuart is calling on his troops to remain positive in the face of three consecutive losses.

“They’re professional and they have to be (upbeat),” Stuart said.

“No one enjoys being in these positions but hard work gets you out of them. 

“We’ve had a longer week this week, we’ve lightened the mood a bit at the start of the week because people are down and disappointed in regard to our results the last three weeks.

“But it’s not coming from a lack of hard work. They’re committed and they’re working hard to try and find that next win.”

Stuart paid tribute to diminutive hooker Tom Starling, who will play his 100th Raiders game against former club the Knights.

Starling has largely been deployed from the bench in 2024 but will start at dummy half on Sunday for a second consecutive game as Danny Levi remains on the bench.

“I’ve got great faith in Tommy,” Stuart said.

“Where he’s not as big in stature, he’s got a big heart. He’s a very courageous young man.”