The Canberra Raiders will return to the NSW Cup under their own logo for the first time in 14 years for the upcoming 2021 season.
It is the first time since 2007 that the Raiders will feature in the competition in their own colours after being aligned with the Mounties, who are now affiliated with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
The Raiders NSW Cup squad will be made up of a mixture of NRL squad members and players who have been training for the Raiders Jersey Flegg (Under 21s) Cup team so far this pre-season.
The move also means the Raiders Jersey Flegg team will drop out of the competition in 2021, with a view to possibly re-entering in 2022.
Jersey Flegg coach, Peter Marrapodi, will also step up to the role of Raiders NSW Cup coach.
The Raiders will still field teams in the SG Ball (Under 19s), Harold Matthews Cup (Under 17s) and the Tarsha Gale Cup (Women’s under 18s) in 2021.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart believes the decision will allow the club to get valuable game time into their squad members.
“We’re really excited to be back in the NSW Cup, with the competition allowing us to get some valuable field time for our NRL squad members,” Stuart said.
“The NSW Cup allows our squad to best prepare for NRL football and will allow the coaching staff to see who is performing well enough to come into the first-grade team if required.
“We saw in our last competition game against the Sharks last season the wonderful depth we have in the squad and it will be fantastic to see them get more match time at a high level in 2021.”
Raiders CEO Don Furner said the decision would also provide fans the chance to support a team in the NSW Cup.
“After careful evaluation and feedback from our coaches and pathways staff, we’ve decided that fielding a team on our own in the NSW Cup is best for the club’s football program,” Furner said.
“It also gives our members and fans the opportunity to have their own team to support in this competition.
“We haven’t fielded a Raiders team in this competition since 2007 and we know our members and supporters will definitely identify more with a team wearing our famous green jersey.
“We also look forward to scheduling as many of their matches as we can with our NRL team to enhance the match day experience.
“I’d also like to thank the NRL for providing the extra funding and the NSWRL for re-admitting the Raiders into the NSW Cup at this late stage of the pre-season.”
Eleven teams are set to feature in the NSW Cup in 2021 after the competition was cancelled after just one round in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Raiders will be joined by the Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles, Mounties, Newcastle Knights, Newtown Jets, North Sydney Bears, Parramatta Eels, Penrith Panthers, South Sydney Rabbitohs, St George Illawarra Dragons and the Western Suburbs Magpies.
The draw for the NSW Cup is yet to be finalised but the opening round has been scheduled for 13 March.
The NSW Rugby League (NSWRL) is looking at ways for players to move freely between the NRL and the NSW Cup this season including regular COVID-19 tests.
The NSW Cup has proven to be a great breeding ground for NRL stars with Toby Rudolf, Adam Clune and Stephen Crichton graduating to nail down first grade spots last season.
The NSWRL season will kick off on 6 February with the Junior Representative competitions including SG Ball Cup and the Tarsha Gale Cup (Under 19s), Laurie Daley Cup (Under 18s), Harold Matthews Cup (Under 17s) and Andrew Johns Cup (Under 16s).
Other competitions being administered this season include the Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Premiership, Jersey Flegg Cup, a Presidents Cup competition which will involve teams from the Ron Massey Cup (Central Conference), Newcastle (Northern Conference) and Illawarra (Southern Conference), and the Sydney Shield.
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