After narrowly scraping into the NRL finals thanks to the late season implosion of the Brisbane Broncos, the Canberra Raiders say they have been dudded by the league's finals fixture.
Having beaten Wests Tigers to assure themselves of a finals berth on Sunday afternoon, the Raiders have only a six-day turnaround before they face the Melbourne Storm next Saturday in Melbourne.
The NRL finals fixture, released on Sunday night, will see the likes of the Storm, Sydney Roosters and South Sydney Rabbitohs all enjoy the benefit of an eight-day break or more.
The Roosters and Rabbitohs squared off last Friday night, while the Storm faced the fourth-placed Parramatta Eels last Thursday.
The announcement of the fixture has led to a degree of frustration at the Raiders, with club boss Don Furner telling the Sydney Morning Herald he believed it was simply more of the same shabby treatment from the NRL.
Furner said Canberra had been similarly dudded prior to their preliminary final against the Storm in 2020, when the league ordered the club to travel to Queensland several days before they had expected to.
“It’s made it harder for us, and it reminds me of 2020,” he said.
“It’s not easy, but we’re used to it.”
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart was characteristically blunt in his assessment of the fixture when asked about it in his post-match press conference on Sunday.
“We’re a club that is used to getting the short straw,” he answered.
After quizzing the NRL as to why they had copped such a short turnaround and why the final couldn't be played on Sunday to give them time to recover, the Raiders were informed their match had to be played on the Saturday in order to accomodate two NRLW fixtures also at AAMI Park.
The fixture is also believed to have been written with the second week of the finals in mind, with the winner of the Raiders-Storm fixture to take on the loser of Penrith and Parramatta on Friday the following week.
Raiders slip into NRL finals after thumping Wests Tigers
Canberra rubber stamped their return to the finals in style by smashing the woeful Wests Tigers 56-10 at Leichhardt Oval.
Canberra, who had nine try-scorers, go to Melbourne knowing they have beaten the Storm at AAMI Park on four successive visits since 2019.
But the fallout will focus on an abject end to a disastrous season for the Tigers.
They finished the year with the wooden spoon for the first time in their history and have managed just one win since sacking Michael Maguire in May.
Captain James Tamou said that after every loss the dressing room had been a scene of "devastation".
They were booed off at half-time on Sunday when they trailed 42-0 and it will take more than the return of 71-year-old Tim Sheens as head coach for them to resemble anything like a finals contender.
"At one of our home venues it was important to play well but it was a really poor first half," said interim coach Brett Kimmorley.
"It could've been extremely ugly if it had've stayed on that path
"It doesn't change the fulltime result, but 16-10 in the second half was a better outcome than what it could've potentially got to, which would've been very dark and very bad for the club."
Stuart opted to rest Jack Wighton and Elliott Whitehead but even accounting for the absence of their star five-eighth and captain, the Raiders were too strong for Wests.
Every single member of the Raiders starting backline - Xavier Savage, Nick Cotric, Matt Timoko, Seb Kris and Jordan Rapana - managed to cross before half-time, while second-rower Hudson Young and halfback Jamal Fogarty rounded out the first-half rout.
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