Canberra have a chip on their shoulder and veteran NRL coach Ricky Stuart wants to keep it that way.
The Raiders are playing with a renewed confidence this year after finally learning the age-old adage that attack wins games but defence wins premierships.
Stuart refutes any suggestion his fourth-placed side are over-achieving this season and instead says his men were under-achieving in the past two years.
Canberra went within one play of taking premiers, the Sydney Roosters, to golden point last week and host the next best team in the competition, South Sydney, on Saturday.
Stuart says “disgruntledness” is driving his side and growing maturity is behind six wins in nine rounds.
“I sensed a real disgruntledness when they came back from the pre-season break. There was a real disgruntledness about not making the eight,” Stuart said.
“When they arrived back to work this year I just sensed another jump in maturity and it really helps.
“A number of the boys have that disappointment from last year, and being so close the last two years has given them that desire and urge not to leave a stone unturned in regards to choices and being winners.
“There’s a big difference between acting like a winner and trying to be a winner and these boys are acting like winners now.”
Stuart said the past two seasons and a growing injury ward ensured there was no room for complacency.
Internationals John Bateman (eye-socket), Joey Leilua (neck), Joe Tapine (ankle) and Jordan Rapana (knee) are all sidelined.
“It’s never entered my mind, complacency. We’ve got a bit of adversity in front of us now so it’s going to be interesting to see how we handle that,” Stuart said.
“Last week I believe a lot of teams would have let a team like the Roosters keep going when they got to 30-6, but there’s a lot of heart and spirit in our team.
“I don’t say that lightly.
“It’s there for everyone to see and the way they came back last we week you can see they’re playing for each other and for the jumper and that’s really important.”
STATS THAT MATTER
– Ricky Stuart has won just one of his past 13 games against Souths coach Wayne Bennett.
– Souths are scoring the second most points this season with 26 per game while the Raiders are conceding the second fewest points at 14.7 per game.
– Canberra fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad has made the third most runs in the NRL this season with (158) and has scored in his past three games.