AAP Rugby

Canberra defending their way to NRL title

By AAP Newswire

Attack wins games, defence wins premierships.

It's the oldest adage in rugby league but Canberra co-captain Jarrod Croker believes it's what makes the Green Machine genuine NRL title contenders in 2019.

The Raiders last played finals in 2016 on the back of an exciting brand of attacking football that clinched 10 straight wins to finish the regular season.

But they were bounced out in straight sets following low-scoring losses against Cronulla and Melbourne, who went on to contest the grand final.

Canberra have the second-best defence in the NRL behind Melbourne and will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the club's maiden premiership when they host Wests on Saturday.

The Raiders are third on the ladder with eight games remaining and Croker said he's more confident of ending a 25-year premiership drought this season than in 2016.

"I feel like we've been a lot more consistent this year and we're winning games off the back of our defence," Croker said.

"In 2016 it was a great year but a lot of our footy, while we were putting scores on sides, we weren't winning games off the back of our defence.

"We've won a lot of games this year purely off the back of our defence. That's probably the proudest part for me and we've probably been more consistent.

"Even know we did play pretty well that year, I'd say it's a very different team and style of footy we're playing this year.

"But we can't afford to ladder watch or look too far ahead because there's still eight weeks to go and a lot can happen in eight weeks."

Raiders co-captain Josh Hodgson admits they've been guilty of looking too far ahead in the past and added the success this season has also come from keeping things simple in attack.

"We spoke (last week) about being really patient and not get too carried away with trying to score points early or force our hand," Hodgson said.

"We went in with a pretty simple game plan (against St George Illawarra) and I think simple works for us. That was definitely the key on the weekend.

"We're in a good spot on the ladder but it's extremely tight, there's only two points between us and sixth.

"It's a really tight competition and we can't look too far ahead because we've done that before and got turned over."