Having played a home final last Saturday, re-signed with the Raiders for another year on Tuesday and then getting up for a sudden-death final against the Roosters this Friday, it’ll be a massive week for veteran prop Sia Soliola.
The Raiders’ spiritual leader said he was “really pumped” to announce he’ll suit up for another season in green.
“First and foremost, I want to thank the club for giving me another opportunity to play,” he said.
34-year-old Soliola has been one of the cornerstones of the strong on and off-field culture that’s been established in Canberra since he joined the club ahead of the 2015 season.
Soliola was one of Canberra head coach Ricky Stuart’s first big recruitment calls in reshaping the club after taking the reins before the 2014 competition.
“The day Sia Soliola joined the club was the day our culture started to change. He’s a very, very powerful influence in our team and environment,” Stuart said.
“The things he does around the headquarters here, around the team, outside his contribution on the field is enormous.”
Having been an outstanding member of both the Raiders and the Canberra community more widely, Soliola said it’ll be great to run out for his seventh year at the club and 17th year of top-flight rugby league next season.
“I’m really enjoying it and it’s a great group of guys and I think this club is going to be a consistent title contender for the future and I want to be part of that,” he said.
“My family and I love it here … Canberra is an awesome place and I’m very thankful for the club for introducing me to it.”
Chooks contest entails clash of the packs
Now successfully past a gruesome facial fracture and with some match fitness behind him, Soliola said the experience of last year’s finals series holds the group in good stead as they prepare to come up against their 2019 grand final opponents.
Recent exchanges between the sides have seen some big battles fought between their star-studded forward packs.
Soliola said one of the keys to getting on top will be starting fast, particularly after the Sharks dominated territory and possession in the first half against Canberra last weekend.
“There’s a major responsibility on us to improve that, but we’ll take that pressure on. We understand what we need to do, and collectively we’ll be ready,” he said.
“A lot of guys have expressed the confidence within the group of how well things are starting to gel; we just know that we need to get it going.”
Having missed 12 weeks after his injury suffered against the Dragons in round eight, Soliola said he felt “very confident” returning for Canberra’s round 20 clash against the Sharks a fortnight ago.
He did so on the back of reassurance from specialist Dr Robert Witherspoon and his team at the Canberra Hospital, and a sizeable amount of contact training.
“Once I got over the six-week mark and I was actually able to start training and get into things, the vision of actually playing became a reality,” he said.
“I was doing a lot of training with some of the younger fellas and there’s a lot of uncontrolled scenarios there where I actually got hit and knocked a few times.
“The young guys aren’t as controlled as what I’m used to … they tested it out,” he smiled.