Raiders as favourites? Ricky couldn’t care less
AFTER being written off and ridiculed for too many years, don't expect Ricky Stuart to start cheering the fact Canberra are now the NRL competition favourites.
The Raiders will go into restart next week as the team to beat for the first time since the Green Machine's glory days of the early 1990s.
In fact, TAB spokesman Matt Jenkins said not since Stuart, Mal Meninga, Laurie Daley and Bradley Clyde were all running around together in 1994 when the Raiders last won the comp have they had the favourites tag.
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But despite finally getting some overdue respect, Stuart scoffed at the latest betting market which has the Raiders as the outright $5 favourites ahead of Melbourne at $5.50 and the Sydney Roosters at $6.
"Some of the so-called experts had us coming ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th last year and I didn't care then," Stuart said.
"So without wanting to sound rude I will take it with a grain of salt if they are now saying we are the team to beat."
Stuart wasn't even taking credit for the way he has resurrected the club and put them back on the rugby league map.
When Stuart first made it back to Canberra in 2014 he was flat out getting any big name players interested in moving to the nation's capital.
But it has since turned around on the back of some shrewd recruitment led by the arrival of Englishman Josh Hodgson and John Bateman, while they've struck some real bargain buys with Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad in particular the latest to catch everyone by surprise last year.
"I have nothing to say about that," Stuart added.
"If you play two bad games it is quickly forgotten so we just have to keep our heads down."
The Raiders are unbeaten after two rounds and have now drawn to play the Storm in round three and Newcastle in round four.
Perhaps surprisingly the Raiders will go into the return game against the Storm as slight outsiders at $2.05 with Melbourne paying $1.75.
Canberra has also been boosted by the return of Jordan Rapana while Bateman could be ready to return from his shoulder injury in the comeback round.
Jenkins said: "Bateman gives the Raiders that x-factor across a well-balanced side who will be more experienced for their Grand Final defeat last year.
"The Raiders are always popular with TAB punters and we expect that to be no different this season."