Thursday night's NRL grand final rematch might sound like a dream for league fans, but it's turned into something of a nightmare for Ricky Stuart.
The Raiders coach has employed a siege mentality going into the blockbuster clash against the defending premiers as a short turnaround and injury crisis at the club, leaves him seething.
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While COVID-19 had inflicted all manner of disruption to the competition in 2020, extending travel and a devastating injury toll is wreaking havoc on the capital.
The Raiders are now without six first-team regulars for either the season or most of it, after Josh Hodgson and Bailey Simonsson's injuries in Saturday night's 20-14 home loss to Melbourne.
Compounding the worrying injury scenario for Canberra is the fact they now face a five-day turnaround against the Roosters, who have two extra days to prepare for the clash.
The Daily Telegraph’s Paul Kent revealed on Fox Sports' NRL 360 that the unfortunate situation that the Raiders find themselves in has left their coach livid.
“I spoke to him about doing something [for the Telegraph] for the grand final rematch, and as you know I get on pretty well with Rick,” Kent said.
“He said mate stick it up your arse, because everyone is talking about this grand final replay and we’ve been given a five-day turnaround. The Roosters have got seven days.
“He said second to that, we asked if we could stay the night before in a hotel to get ready for the game given we’re on a five-day turnaround.
“The NRL said no. He said what about the AFL teams, they’re all staying in motels. Why can’t we?
“No not allowed to.
“OK, well let us fly up there on the day of the game. No its an away game so you must get a bus up. The NRL won’t even let them fly on the day of the game, they have to get a bus up. Come on. Everybody sits there and goes this is the grand final replay, that’s how you kick it in the backside.”
Croker rues savage injury toll
Raiders captain Jarrod Croker says he's never seen his club suffer such injury carnage over the course of his 12-season career.
Croker couldn't believe their medical list had swelled to include Hodgson (knee) and Bailey Simonsson (shoulder) following their season-ending injuries suffered in the 20-14 home loss to Melbourne.
The Raiders lost middle forwards Sia Soliola (facial fracture), Emre Guler (ankle) and Corey Horsburgh (foot) this month and there's doubt over all three returning.
English forward John Bateman has also been on the sidelines with injury this season.
"It seems to be compounding at the moment," Croker said.
"Obviously there's been a lot of tough times in the past but I don't remember it being this bad.
"It's basically five season-ending injuries in two weeks pretty much. But we're a tough club, a tough team, that's from upstairs to downstairs. We're all in it together.
"It's backs against the wall. We've got a short turnaround which might be a good thing ... so we can get straight back into it and go against the premiers."
Last weekend threw up a sackful of serious injuries across the competition, leaving Crocker scratching his head at the cause.
He estimated Hodgson was among 12 players to have had 2020 cut short by ACL knee damage since the competition resumption.
"I'm not up with the sport science but it's way too many isn't it?
"I do feel for all those blokes, it's a tough injury. Having seen Hodgo go through it before, it's very tough for him.
"On top of that, there's been a lot of (other) season-ending injuries. There's certainly something going on. What that is, I don't know."
Croker said he wouldn't look for excuses at the Sydney Cricket Ground, noting the Roosters had endured their share of ailments too.