Canberra have flown under the radar for most of the season, but the Raiders won’t cop critics who say they don’t deserve to be in the NRL top four.
Canberra are safely nestled in third position going into round 23, one point clear of Canterbury in fourth and, more important, three points ahead of the rest of the pack.
It means that after an Origin period in which they won six matches from seven, they need only hold their form to ensure they finish in front of last season’s grand finalists, North Queensland and Brisbane.
Raiders captain Jarrod Croker refuses to agree with those who don’t believe they have earned their spot above the supposed premiership heavyweights.
“We’re there so we deserve to be there,” he said.
“A lot of people are saying Canterbury don’t deserve to be there, but they’ve won more games than everyone below them so I don’t know why they don’t deserve to be there, either.
“We’re happy with where we’re at at the moment.”
Canberra haven’t finished in the top four since 2003, and are also the only team to have failed to make the third week of the finals since the start of the NRL era in 1998.
However, they have the chance to solidify their top-four hopes against table-topping Melbourne on Monday night in Canberra.
And while the Storm only worked their way into first position when Canberra upset Cronulla by 16 points last weekend, Croker doesn’t expect it to be quite so easy on Monday.
“They’re so consistent, the Storm,” Croker said.
“They’re a high-quality side and we’re going to have to be better than we were last week.”