Raiders rookies not overawed - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Raiders rookies not overawed

By Joe Barton 09/09/2010 03:23:32 PM Comments (0)

To outsiders, Canberra's brightest young stars are readying themselves for the biggest game of their young careers in Saturday night's NRL qualifying final with Penrith.

But to the brilliant youngsters themselves, the crowd at CUA Stadium isn't going to be all that intimidating - after all they've lifted in front of a bigger crowd than what Penrith can offer.

The junior Raiders were runaway minor premiers in the Toyota Cup in 2008, before claiming a thrilling 28-24 golden point victory over Brisbane in front of a huge crowd in the grand final.

20-year-old Josh Dugan won the Jack Gibson medal as best on ground that day and celebrated with team-mates Jarrod Croker, Daniel Vidot, Shaun Fensom and Travis Waddell - all of whom have since progressed into the top squad.

He said his young team-mates would not be overawed in their NRL finals debut.

"It is a first and it's a first for a couple of the boys, but a few of the boys like me and `Crokes' (centre Jarrod Croker) have played in the grand final for the Toyota Cup," Dugan said.

"It's the same sort of stage and hopefully we can come out there with the same confidence we've been playing with for the last few weeks."

Dugan added that the youthful squad was brimming with confidence thanks to a sensational five-game winning streak that sends them into the finals as the NRL's form team.

Among that winning streak were victories over Saturday's opponents Penrith and minor premiers St George Illawarra - giving Dugan the belief that they won't be feeling any pressure despite it being an elimination match.

"I think the confidence from the boys is overshadowing the pressure," Dugan explained.

"It's a must win game but we've been playing like that for the last seven weeks, it's nothing new to us so we've just got to go out there on Saturday and put our best performance in."

If the Raiders are victorious, they will earn a home final in week two against the highest ranked loser from week one, a prospect which has Canberra players and fans alike licking their lips.

"It's sort of in the back of the boys minds ... it's especially in mine," Dugan added.

"It would be awesome to win this weekend and come back home for a home semi, and hopefully pack the stadium out."

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