Canberra Raiders 2024 season preview

Canberra Raiders 2024 season preview

2023 recap

The Raiders were solid if unspectacular in 2023, as they squeezed into the top eight. Things were looking ominous in the early weeks as they picked up just one win from their opening five games, but they followed up with five straight wins to push themselves right back into finals contention. The Raiders tailed off towards the end of the year, but they did enough to claim a finals spot, where they suffered an agonising two-point defeat in extra time to the Knights.

2023 position: 8th

Key signings

Zac Hosking (Penrith Panthers), Simi Sasagi (Newcastle Knights), Morgan Smithies (Wigan Warriors), Kaeo Weekes (Manly Sea Eagles)

Key departures

Jarrod Croker (retired), Matt Frawley (Leeds Rhinos), Harley Smith-Shields (Gold Coast Titans), Jack Wighton (South Sydney Rabbitohs)

Players to watch

Morgan Smithies is the latest Englishman to head to the Raiders, and given how successful most of the others have been, he could be the latest to leave his mark on the NRL. The big lock is still only 23, but he’s already won a Challenge Cup and a Grand Final with Wigan in Super League, and last year he was the competition’s top tackler as well, so have no doubts that he’s coming over for a starting spot.

Kaeo Weekes has has enormous boots to fill if he’s the man chosen to replace Jack Wighton in the halves. The 22-year-old has only played 12 NRL games so far in his career, but he’s expected to get first crack at the number six jersey when round one rolls around.

Young gun

If Kaeo Weekes doesn’t get into the starting side, then Ethan Strange will probably be tasked with wearing the number six instead. The 19-year-old made his debut at the back end of 2023, and he’s been named in the Raiders top 30 squad for 2024. With Jack Wighton now gone, Strange will be neck and neck with Weekes to replace him.

Our prediction – 12th

The Raiders were lucky to make the finals last year and I think the squad looks weaker in 2024. Jack Wighton will be a huge loss, and the fact they’ve not replaced him with an established name is a concern. In fact, their recruitment in general has been pretty low-key, but Canberra have made a habit of punching above their weight in recent years and another top eight finish can’t be ruled out. When I look at all the squads though, I just can’t see it.

Darren Notley

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