The Canberra Raiders are coming into the 2007 season without any expectations. Even new coach Neil Henry is unsure of what to expect from a team lacking any star players.
Henry takes over as coach of the Raiders and faces the difficult task of dealing with a squad that lacks experience and big-name players. Clinton Schifcofske, Jason Smith, Simon Woolford, Adam Mogg and Jason Croker all left the club at the end of 2006, causing a major void.
One of the first decisions to be made is the captaincy for the upcoming season. It would appear that hard-working back-rower Alan Tongue would be the favourite for the job, however Lincoln Withers and Troy Thompson have also been mentioned as possible candidates.
The pre-season will be vital for the Raiders as a number of players will be able to stake their claim for a spot in the 17 for their first round match. Henry has put the players on notice and stressed that there will be no guarantees.
"I've told them there are no guarantees," he said
"If a player is in good form, we will have to reward that form. Seasoned players at other clubs might be out injured but come straight back in. They have earned that. We haven't got too many players like that.
"It is time for some players to step up and prove they can handle the NRL week in, week out. Trial form will be very important."
Despite the no-frills squad, Henry is excited about what the Raiders could achieve in 2007 and was impressed with the hunger showed by his side.
"We have about 30 guys going for 17 positions," Henry said.
"It isn't clear-cut who will walk in to the side each week. There is a margin for changes which other clubs don't have."
When asked about the captaincy, Henry confirmed that a final decision hadn’t yet been made, however hinted that Alan Tongue would be given the job.
The Raiders are the wooden spoon favourites for 2007 with many experts predicting that they will struggle. Despite this, the club boasts a number of talented young players who will be looking to seize their opportunity in first grade. If the team can gel, there is no reason why the Raiders can’t make a claim for a top 8 spot. Their season kicks off against the Manly Sea Eagles at Brookvale Oval.