Injury kept us out of NRL top four: Stuart

·2-min read

Ricky Stuart believes Canberra would have finished the season in the top four had key players not been struck down by injuries early in the year.

The Raiders slumped to 13th on the ladder after eight rounds but strung together seven wins from eight games after the bye to charge into the finals series.

Their season ended with a 40-4 loss to Parramatta in Friday night's semi-final, leaving Stuart to ponder what might have been had the Raiders started their season in more auspicious circumstances.

Canberra lost veteran hooker Josh Hodgson to an ACL injury inside the first 10 minutes of their first game and also had to make do without halfback Jamal Fogarty for the first 11 rounds after he too did his knee.

Jarrod Croker and Harley Smith-Shields both suffered season-ending injuries of their own, while Hudson Young, Adam Elliott and Joe Tapine were among those to spend shorter stints in the casualty ward.

Stuart declared his side could have finished higher on the ladder this year but for the injuries.

"We would have made the top four," Stuart told reporters.

"The second half of the season showed that. We were only three or four wins out of the top four.

"We would have made the top four but we didn't. Every team gets some bad luck. Every team gets injuries."

The Raiders suffered their biggest loss of the season on Friday night but Stuart said he would leave CommBank Stadium pleased with his side.

"That game does not define these blokes," he said.

"I could not be prouder in regards to the journey they've been on, the difficulties we've been confronted with.

"After round 12 this year, if someone had said to me, 'I'll do a deal with you, you can get to the second semi final and get flogged', what do you reckon I would have said? We were coming 11th or 12th at one stage."

Stuart praised the Eels on the dominant performance that secured the club's first preliminary final berth since 2009.

"We didn't beat ourselves. We got beaten by a better team," he said.