Canberra Raiders NRL Team LogoIt was a throw back to Rugby League days from a by-gone era at Seiffert Oval the other night as the Raiders squared off against the Sharks.

New Canberra coach David Furner kick starting his coaching career, and Ricky Stuart taking the sideline for the first time since his Australia / New Zealand World Cup loss.

While only an unofficial trial – this first match for 2009 was more a case of getting to know the ability of potential fringe and junior players. Both coaches wanting to see who could be the next big thing to bring into their squads.

What was amazing about the game, was how unofficial it actually was. Before a ball was kicked, a Canberra player raced to the sideline and took a pee before play got underway. Instantly bringing back memories of Julian O’Neill who took a fancy to relieving himself before a game got underway; even if it was a casino game of blackjack.

There were no conversions taken during the game and the players were tossed a bag of oranges during 3 short breaks in the play. The few spectators on hand could be forgiven for thinking they were at the Under 10’s game on any given weekend around the country.

For the Sharks, there were few if any of their big names.

No Trent Barrett. No Anthony Tupou. No Reni Maitua. All the new faces were kept away from his early match – Stuart preferring to test the skills of his younger brigade.
One name that brought back memories of former NRL glory was Tony Caine. Previously playing for the Sharks and Dragons he was a hooker destined for bigger things

But a trademark Steve Price charge down smashed the leg of Caine, forcing him out almost for good.

While retiring some time ago, Caine has reappeared and got through the game with no visible problems.

First touchdown went to John Mannah for Cronulla, who appears to be as good a prospect as his brother, Parramatta NYC captain Tim.

While Canberra won the match; they would be frustrated with a serious injury to one of their squad.

Cy Lasscock was sent packing after 10 minutes. A solid prop, Lasscock suffered an unlucky fall where his knee was rocked badly – dislocating and forcing him off the paddock.

Final score to Canberra 32-12

An understandable result given Canberra fielded slightly more NRL talent on the day. Coach David Furner was happy to get through his first game and keep a 100% record, something he will want to hang on to as long as possible.

“It signals the comp is just around the corner,” he said. “I was pretty excited. I know some of the players were looking forward to the game and the coaches were, too.”

Asked about getting one up on his old teammate Stuart, he said, “It is only a trial.

“It would be nice to be in a situation to take a proper two points.”

The Raiders laid on 4 tries in a hot period of 8 minutes, two by prodigal son Josh McCrone. The young half returned to the Raiders after a stint at Penrith and appears worthy of future opportunities.

Raiders prop Daniel Joyce attempted to shoulder charge everything in sight, with mixed success. The kid is a monster.

Such was the comeback of Tony Caine, he could have easily been the best player on the day. A fitting reward for the man that has comeback from the dead.

It’s nearly time; the unofficial trial reminds us that real NRL is only a few short weeks away.

By ricky

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