Recap of last season
The Raiders had the most up-and-down season of any side last year but to finish in eighth position and make finals was a great effort from a team under severe pressure.
Head coach Ricky Stuart was of course the centre of much controversy last year, whether in the media or simply due to his coaching style. He did manage to calm things down by season's end but a few early losses and the Canberra media could quite easily pile back on.
The Raiders managed to get past a very strong Storm side in Melbourne in the first week of finals. That was as good as it got though with a 40-4 loss to the Eels a week later in Sydney. Losing to the eventual Grand Finalists isn't a bad effort and perhaps shows that the Raiders are on the rise.
How can they improve
A lack of depth is the biggest issue for the Raiders going forward. It was a big part of the reason they didn't finish any higher last season and going forward the depth looks even worse.
With three key forwards in Adam Elliot, Harry Rushton and Ryan Sutton all leaving, and without massive players coming in, the bench strength of the Raiders and Ricky Stuart's development program will come under the microscope.
Last season the Raiders finished 11th in terms of tries they conceded, showing their defence just wasn't up to scratch, this will be another area Stuart needs to look at.
IN: Pasami Saulo (Knights), Danny Levi (Huddersfield)
OUT: Josh Hodgson (Eels), Adam Elliott (Knights), Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (Warriors), Ryan Sutton (Bulldogs)
In the second half of the season, the Raiders really came into their own with the form of young forwards Joseph Tapine and Hudson Young allowing a much more open field to let their running game shine.
The question this year is how Adam Elliot's departure affects this relationship. Jack Wighton in the halves also had a great second half of the season kicking almost 6000 metres in the season and running nearly 1500 with the ball in hand.
The running game was a key part of the Raiders' success with them running over 36,000 metres. This was largely due to their amazing 818 tackle busts through the season leaving them fifth in the competition in that metric.
The Raiders come into this season having gone deep in 2022 and will no doubt be hungry to make the most of a side that has the potential to not just make finals but go a long way into September and October.
Having a rookie at the most important spot in the field being fullback is a massive risk. While there is no doubt Xavier Savage is talented it wouldn't take too much for the young man to fall at an early hurdle.
Jarrod Croker is of course almost at the end of his career and could easily miss games through injury or fatigue through the season. The good news is that the Raiders are unlikely to lose many players to Origin.
Consistency through the season was the clear issue last year with the Raiders being all the way down in 14th after just a couple of months last season. The extra bye this season may allow them a little more time to recuperate and hopefully keep that consistency through the season.
Having just the one game last season when he came in as a concussion replacement for Ryan Suttion, the young Samoan Ata Mariota will be one to keep an eye on this season.
Having been guaranteed a contract for the next two seasons, the 22-year-oldwill be hoping to put in a big effort as prop this season to guarantee a spot in the starting 13.
With a massive 184cm and 114kg frame, Mariota will be a nightmare for any attacking player and will be hoping to use his size to get the tackle-bust numbers of the Raiders up with the best in the competition. Often getting compared to star forward Josh Papalii, the Raiders may very well have found another one.
With a relatively easy draw, in fact, the easiest in the competition as analysed by the NRL, the Raiders should be able to at least maintain their record from last year.
Having said that, and in playing the Storm and Bulldogs in consecutive weeks towards the end of the year, the Raiders will want to bank up the wins. In order to improve this season, the Raiders will need to find a way to get over their big experienced losses and find a way to be more consistent having been up-and-down the ladder over the last few years.
Ladder position: 8th
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