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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Canberra rallies behind Raiders’ premiership tilt

Having packed out GIO Stadium Canberra for their spectacular NRL preliminary final victory, the Raiders are hoping their loyal support base will follow them up the Hume Highway to watch them take on the Roosters in their first grand final since Mal Meninga’s famous swan song in 1994.

The scenes of jubilation from players, coaches and fans after the preliminary final on Friday 27 September were rousing.

In the game’s dying minutes, there were spontaneous Viking claps, strangers dressed in lime green hugging, and even Victor the Viking passionately removing his helmet with tears in his eyes.

“With four minutes to go we heard that big Viking clap and it probably got us over the line,” Raiders second-rower Elliott Whitehead told Canberra Weekly.

“It was great to see so many numbers show up and give us their support, and hopefully they can travel up to Sydney this weekend and do the same there.”

As Canberra gets swept up in their side’s valiant campaign, Whitehead and his teammates remain well aware there’s still one more match to be won.

“The buzz around town all week has been crazy; any café I’ve gone to, or anywhere really, there’s Raiders posters and banners up and that really shows us what it means to the community,” he said.

Having joined the club before the 2016 NRL season, Whitehead said this is the closest playing group he’s been a part of.

“We all get along together and all hang around together away from rugby … which is showing on the field. We work hard for each other and we don’t want to let each other down.”

Raiders utility Bailey Simonsson told Canberra Weekly the main thing that stood out to him joining the club at the start of the year was the sense of camaraderie amongst the side.

“No one’s bigger or more important than anyone in this joint and that’s what’s really set the foundation, I think, this year for our success.”

Simonsson said he’s grateful that his rookie NRL season will culminate in a grand final appearance.

“I came here on a train and trial with no promises; I didn’t know if I’d get the opportunity to sign here, but to get the opportunity from this club is massive for me.

“Here we are almost a year later and I’m about to play in a grand final with a great bunch of boys.”

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