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How the Raiders can still make the eight

How the Raiders can still make the eight
Despite losing to the Panthers in Round 24 the Raiders are still a chance to make the finals. Credit: Keegan Carroll. Copyright: NRL Photos.

Don't send the Green Machine to the scrap metal yard just yet: finals footy in 2017 is not completely out of the question.‌

 

‌‌Last Sunday's heart-wrenching loss to the Panthers was for all intents and purposes the death knell for any thought of a Canberra finals campaign but Manly's subsequent loss to the Bulldogs later that afternoon coupled with St George Illawarra's earlier defeat by the Broncos has kept the dream alive.

Five-eighth Blake Austin certainly had little trace of hope in his voice when he addressed the media on Tuesday morning but if the Raiders can topple the Knights this Friday in Canberra and defeat the Storm in Round 26, there are signs of life.

Using NRL.com's ladder predictor for the final two rounds, all it will take for Canberra to qualify is – in addition to their own two victories – for favourites Penrith to topple the Dragons, Wests Tigers to beat the Cowboys and the Warriors to win at home against the slumping Sea Eagles this weekend.

Then if in Round 26 the Raiders can upset the Storm, Panthers defeat Manly and the Bulldogs get the better of the Dragons, Canberra would actually finish in seventh position ahead of the Cowboys on points differential with Manly and St George Illawarra missing out.

Winger Jordan Rapana knows that relying on other results for your own benefit is in no way a position of strength but stressed that while there is life, there is hope.

"We're obviously disappointed with our loss last week but there's still a bit of positivity there," Rapana said.

"We obviously have to rely on other teams to lose now but for us we need to make sure we finish the season strong and hope for the best.

"Obviously we would love to have been in a better position than we are now but two more games and I think the boys will be fired up for that."

Austin will celebrate his 100th game milestone on Friday against the Knights exactly six years after making his debut in Canberra whilst playing for the Panthers.

The disappointment in where the Raiders currently sit on the ladder was evident in his voice and whatever happens over the next fortnight the five-eighth admits they have lost the opportunity to graduate from perennial underdogs to one of the competition's most formidable teams.

"We're certainly not happy sitting where we are at the moment but that's the way it's panned out," was Austin's blunt response. "All we can do is finish these last two games off the best we can and then we'll look back at the end.

"This club has been an underdog for so long that you could argue that they do [play better as an underdog] but that's our challenge.

"We want to be one of them powerhouse clubs and to do that you've got to consistently perform and we haven't been able to do that this year.

"That will be one thing we look back at the end of the year and look to be better at."

Austin was 20 years old when he made his debut for Penrith in Round 25, 2011 and scored his first try in the top grade a week later against the Dragons.

He played only 14 games over the next two seasons for the Panthers and then 19 games for the Wests Tigers in 2014 before moving to Canberra for the start of the 2015 season.

He will play his 65th game for the club on Friday night and spoke of his gratitude that the opportunity he was afforded.

"It's taken a little longer than it does for a lot of players," Austin said. "The boys had a bit of a joke and asked me if I'd played any NRL before I came to the Raiders but just blessed and grateful for where I am.

"I don't take for granted where I've come from. It was only a few years ago that I was a squad filler at the Tigers screaming out for an opportunity.

"I went to the Tigers with a pretty big goal to put my career back on track and I was able to do that and come onto the radar of the Raiders and haven't looked back since.

"It's not something that I take for granted and at the end of the day I'm just a kid from western Sydney that loves playing footy and pretty blessed to be where I am.

"So grateful for what the club's been able to do for me and what I've been able to achieve."

 

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