Raiders bracing for Leichhardt spirit

Canberra is banking on strong wins at Belmore Sportsground and Shark Park this season to help them for their crunch NRL final round match at Leichhardt Oval.

The Raiders have now strung nine on the trot, meaning the league’s hottest team could face off against arguably the most desperate, with the Wests Tigers first needing eighth-placed Gold Coast to lose on Saturday.

That would open the door for the Tigers to dramatically steal a finals spot against the Raiders on Sunday.

“They’re going to be coming out on the fire and they’re going to turn up with their best game,” said Raiders fullback Jack Wighton.

Tigers officials are preparing for a sellout crowd at the suburban venue in what could be a hellish atmosphere for the third-placed Raiders.

However Canberra have recorded two of their most famous victories this year at old-school grounds.

The Raiders’ stunned Canterbury at their spiritual home of Belmore in round four, and they recently ended Cronulla’s historic 16-game unbeaten streak in the Shire in round 22.

Wighton said he enjoyed playing at the smaller parks.

“The atmosphere’s a little bit like bush footy I reckon. Everyone’s a little bit closer. I love playing at places like that,” he said.

“You can hear (fans) really bantering for us and carrying on for us so it’s good. We love that.”

With hopes of a premiership quickly rising in the nation’s capital, forward Joe Tapine admitted noticing a rise in Raiders fans at away games and expected more to come at Leichhardt.

“I’m definitely look forward to it. It’s like Belmore,” he said.

“It’s going to be a big crowd this week. The atmosphere is going to be different but we bring a lot of supporters from Canberra down to away games.

“You can hear them from the field chanting and on the weekend, overbearing some of the Manly crowd (last Sunday). It’s good to see.”

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