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NRL season preview: 10th place

Sportal, Yahoo!7 February 25, 2013, 3:35 pm

With just 10 days to go before the start of the NRL premiership season, we take a look at the team we think will finish the year in 10th place.

CANBERRA RAIDERS

Last year: 6th

Gains: Joel Edwards (Newcastle Knights), Jake Foster (Canterbury Bulldogs).

Losses: Travis Waddell (Released), Drury Low (Canterbury Bulldogs), Nathan Massey (Mounties), Mark Ioane (Gold Coast Titans), Trevor Thurling (Queanbeyan Blues).

What has to go right: A scintillating late-season revival catapulted Canberra into last year's finals before their remarkable run ended in Week 2 of the finals against South Sydney. While it's impressive the Raiders got so far without injury-plagued skipper Terry Campese, the Green Machine need their captain fit and firing if they want to go even further this season. They also need superstar full-back Josh Dugan playing to his full potential more consistently to be genuine title contenders.

What could go wrong: Injuries have been a back breaker in recent years and news that stars Jarrod Croker and Campese, who has only played a handful of games since 2010, are doubtful for the opening rounds, is a worrying sign for Canberra fans. If the injury curse strikes again this season the Raiders could go from serious contenders to bottom-four dwellers in a hurry. It's imperative they keep their top men on the park and find a way to play more consistently every week.

Nightmare headline: Campese out for another year.

Dream reading: Campese leads Raiders to premiership glory.

Predicted finish: 10th

We say: The Raiders are the NRL's sleeping giant. Another backroom overhaul has seen the arrival of assistant coach Brett Kimmorley, who vowed to end to the erratic performances and turn Canberra Stadium into the fortress it should be. Renowned for their slow starts, the Raiders have the perfect opportunity to gain momentum in the opening rounds where they face the bottom six teams of 2012. There's no doubting their potential but the Raiders are the masters of unfulfilled promise. The last four times they played finals footy they finished in the bottom three the following year. It won't be that bad this season but Raiders fans shouldn't book any trips to Sydney in September or October just yet.

They said it: "They rode a fair journey into the semis and it's about keeping that going from the start of the year and not relying on winning so many games to make the finals. It's about setting your own brand so that the locals here in Canberra want to come to the Stadium every week and support us." – Brett Kimmorley

Return tomorrow when we will tell you the team we think will finish in 9th place this season

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