Not much scares an NRL hardman like Ricky Stuart – except what lies ahead for Canberra.
The coach showed some trepidation when asked about playing Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday following his side’s 30-18 win over Manly at GIO Stadium on Friday night.
The Raiders trailed 6-0 after five minutes, before scoring five unanswered tries for a 30-6 lead.
They looked set to cruise home but let slip two tries in the final 10 minutes to give the depleted Sea Eagles a sniff at an unlikely comeback.
“Next week scares me,” a frank Stuart said.
“If we start like we did (on Friday) – and finish like we did – against Brisbane they’ll beat us by 40 points.
“We’re not at that level yet.
“We’ve still got a lot of learning and a lot of growth to do and by playing the big teams we’ll find out how quick and where we’ve got to get in our development.”
It was the reverse scenario to their last clash, when they came from behind to beat Canterbury 32-20.
But Stuart had the same message to his players: the need to be more consistent and play better football for longer.
“We’re an entertaining team and I’ve got a very very good squad of footy players here, (but) they’re very young in games together,” he said.
“I’m not trying to downplay us, I’m just being realistic.”
The match against the Broncos could prove pivotal, with the Raiders sitting in the middle of the top-eight pack.
It’s put them on track for their first finals appearance since 2012 and many agree they’re the “real deal” – including Sea Eagles forward Nate Myles.
“They can score from all over the park,” he said.
“They’re a very young and skilful side.”
Myles made special mention of fellow Queenslander Josh Papalii, whom he played alongside in the State of Origin opener, saying he doesn’t believe there’s another player in the NRL that can match his strength and ability.
“A fantastic asset for this club and one of the best guys I’ve ever met,” added Myles.