Raiders still in NRL title hunt: Williams

Having overcome heartbreak and hardship before, Canberra are backing themselves to do it again when they get a second crack at the NRL premiership next weekend.

The Raiders will host either Penrith or Canterbury in a sudden-death semi-final, with the winner earning a place in the grand final qualifier and the loser eliminated.

They were forced to play their chance card after losing 16-14 to Cronulla at GIO Stadium on Saturday night.

It was their first defeat in three months, having won all 10 previous games since June 9.

Coach Ricky Stuart was quick to tell his men – 11 of whom had never before played in an NRL final – not to dwell on the loss, labelling it an invaluable experience for a side destined for more playoffs.

“It’s just added another week of football to the schedule for us,” he said.

“We’ve got to get into a really healthy frame of mind, fix up our bumps and bruises and get back into routine.”

But it might not be as easy as it sounds.

Star hooker Josh Hodgson is in serious doubt, having injured his ankle early in the second half of the clash.

There’s also uncertainty around five-eighth Blake Austin, who is still recovering from a broken hand.

“It’s just about being positive,” said Sam Williams, who has stepped up in Austin’s absence.

“This group will stick together and we’ll learn from that game.

“We’re still in this competition.

“We’ll fix a few things, take some positives out and move forward.

“I think everyone will be pretty keen to go out there and rectify what happened.”

Unfazed by the prospect of having both Hodgson and Austin on the sidelines, Williams was confident in the Raiders’ depth – which has been tested several times this season.

“We work with all different combinations throughout the year and throughout pre-season,” he said.

“It’s just about being focused and if anyone’s called upon that they’re ready to go.”

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