Raiders skipper eyes new golden era

Jarrod Croker admires what Canberra achieved two decades ago, but the skipper wants to make 2016 the start of a new golden era for the NRL club.

The second-placed Raiders are looking to add a new chapter to what’s already been a history-making season when they play third-placed Cronulla in the first qualifying final at GIO Stadium on Saturday night.

They haven’t been this far since 2012, when they beat the Sharks at home in week one of the finals.

That was their sixth win a row; this weekend, they’re chasing their 11th straight win.

It’s a feat they’ve achieved twice before – in 1989/90 and 1994/95, streaks which included their 1989 and 1994 grand final wins.

The Green Machine haven’t enjoyed much success since, but Ricky Stuart’s men are on a mission this year.

“It was obviously a good era back in the late 80s, early 90s, and to be just a small part of that would be great,” Croker said on Friday.

“But we want to create our own history.

“We’ve gone a long way to achieving that … but we’ve got a lot more to do and a lot more to prove.

“Hopefully it’s just the start of a good future for the club.”

Statistics don’t favour the Raiders, who have won just two of their past 11 finals matches.

Six of those losses were by 16 points or more.

But Croker, who broke his cheekbone in their 2012 qualifying final against the Sharks and missed their sudden-death loss to South Sydney the following week, said things were different this time.

“We’re in a lot more commanding position this year,” he said.

“The boys have really worked hard to get up here, so we’re pretty excited to not let that slip.”

While the Raiders have enjoyed a winning run to the playoffs, the premiership-less Sharks have triumphed only once in their past six matches.

But Croker said there was no chance of the Raiders underestimating their task on Saturday.

“You only have to look at the calibre of player they have – backline and forward pack,” he said.

“They’ve got plenty of experience and plenty of representative players, so they know what big games are about.”

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