29 August 2022

Raiders legends to inspire 2022 team as club enters its 40th season

| Tim Gavel
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Victor the Viking with fans. Photo: Canberra Raiders.

Tony Wood, as Victor the Viking, geeing up fans. Photo: Canberra Raiders.

When the Raiders’ mascot Tony Wood was battling ill health many years ago, Ruben Wiki and David Furner organised to give his garden a makeover.

When Tony was released from hospital, he came home to find his backyard completely transformed with new grass laid by Wiki, Furner and a number of teammates.

It was one of the many community deeds undertaken by Raiders players away from the public eye and with little to no publicity.

In the lead up to the start of their 40th season, the Raiders inducted another four individuals into the Hall of Fame. It should come as no surprise that two of those individuals are Ruben Wiki and David Furner.

Wiki played 224 games, including the 1994 Premiership, while Furner went from club ball boy to Clive Churchill Medallist in the 1994 Grand Final.

David Furner. Photo: ACT Hall of Fame.

David Furner. Photo: ACT Sport Hall of Fame.

Twenty-one individuals, including coach Tim Sheens, have been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame was revamped in 2019 as a way to connect the past with the present. Current day players can draw a link to the generation of players who went before them.

The past generation is a world away from the financial rewards bestowed upon the current players. Members of the 1989 premiership team worked during the day and trained at night.

I well remember seeing the team train until 10 o’clock on a cold, wet Thursday night at Seiffert Oval.

Canberra Raiders players celebrating 1989 grand final victory

The Canberra Raiders celebrating after their grand final victory over the Balmain Tigers in the 1989 grand final. Photo: File.

Coach Ricky Stuart has moved to ensure the current day players have a complete understanding of the feats of previous Canberra teams.

When the players walk down the tunnel into the rooms on arrival at Canberra Stadium, the club’s greatest moments and players are plastered along the walls.

The dressing room similarly pays homage to the former greats.

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It’s a practice that has proven to be incredibly successful in sports such as English Premier League football and AFL, where the past is used to inspire the present.

And with the list of past Raiders’ greats, there are many stories to inspire.

The current day player would need to go no further than Raider 124, Jason Croker, who played the entire second half in a 2001 game with a major knee and ankle injury.

Jason Croker. Photo: ACT Sport Hall of Fame.

Jason Croker in action. Photo: ACT Sport Hall of Fame.

He stayed on the field hobbling for 40 minutes. The Raiders were without a single fit player on the bench as the team had lost four players in the first half through injury. In one of the club’s greatest performances, they went on to beat the Roosters on that memorable day.

But playing whilst injured for the sake of the team is not new to the Raiders. Ricky Stuart, Laurie Daley and Mal Meninga all played while injured to keep the team going. Daley often struggled with a chronic knee injury, while Meninga had an armguard the size of a tree trunk to prevent another break.

The current team doesn’t have to look too far into the history books for inspiration on and off the field.

Ricky Stuart has aimed to shape a culture of community-connectedness within the player group. That community connectedness begins with a link to the Raiders past and present, but also extends to the broader community that surrounds them.

One significant benefit is that it builds better people. It helps players see themselves as part of the contribution that can be made to the Raiders as well as the community.

The current crop of players can see that they too can build their place in history.

Original Article published by Tim Gavel on Riotact.

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