The Canberra Raiders, often referred to just as ‘The Raiders’, are a professional Rugby League club from the Australian capital city, Canberra, who have played in the National Rugby League (NRL) since 1982 except from a single season in the breakaway Super League in 1997.
Formed in March of 1981, the club have won three premierships since their inception out of the six Grand Finals which they have featured in. They have not won in a grand final since 1994 and last featured in a grand final in 2019, losing against the Sydney Roosters.
The club currently play their matches at the Canberra Stadium in Bruce, Australian Capital Territory, and their club mascot is a Viking - as can be seen on the team’s logo.
With the New South Wales Football League (NWSFL) looking to expand to other areas of the state in the 1980s, the Raiders’ franchise was accepted for and they were admitted as the 14th team for the 1982 season.
In their debut campaign, the club finished rock bottom of the table, picking up their only wooden spoon to date. In a number of the seasons after in the decade, the club struggled to mount any real charge for the premiership, often struggling away from home.
In 87’ the Raiders made their way through the semi-finals and preliminary finals to reach the last Grand final to be played at the Sydney Cricket Ground. In front of a club record attendance of over 50,000, they were not able to match the power of Manly-Warringah and lost 18-8.
In 88’ the club went out in the semi-finals with consecutive losses, but better things were to come the year after. They defeated Cronulla, Penrith and South Sydney to qualify for only their second grand final in three years. In what would go down as one of the all-time greatest National Rugby League grand finals, after the Raiders managed to send the game into extra-time late on, Steve Jackson scored a try in extra-time against Balmain to secure their first-ever Premiership victory.
They then went on to play English side Widnes Vikings in the first official World Club Challenge at Manchester United’s Old Trafford in front of over 30,000 in attendance but fell 30-18 to a Widnes side who were spearheaded by then-fastest Rugby League player and Great Britain international Martin Offiah.
1990 was a brilliant year for the club, with all three of its teams managing to reach their respective grand finals. The first team earned their first minor premiership in this season before beating Penrith Panthers in the Grand Final to earn back-to-back titles. In 1991, a season marred by the fact that the club were embroiled in a salary cap scandal, they again reached the Grand Final, but this time lost at the hands of a Penrith side which they had defeated the year before.
In seasons after, with the fallout of the salary cap scandal and the players which departed taking its toll, the club failed to reach the finals for the first time since ‘86.
They won their final Premiership in 1994, a convincing 36-12 victory against the Bulldogs in a match that contained arguably some of the best tries that have ever been seen in a top-flight Grand Final.
They joined the controversial breakaway Super League in 1997, before joining the newly-formed NRL after the SL only lasted a single season. Since they joined the NRL, the club have never been able to return to their former heights which were seen in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Leading the division for most of the season, the Raiders were eliminated by New Zealand Warriors from the 2003 competition.
Canberra did not perform well in the 2000s, the losses of many important players not compensated for resulting in poor performances in both the league and finals, not reaching a single grand final in the decade
The raiders reached the finals of the 2010 season but could not progress far in them before having another underwhelming season in 2011.
Canberra finished 6th in 2012 but fell at the hands of Sydney Roosters in the NRL’s semi-final.
2013, 2014 and 2015 all saw the Raiders struggle to perform, with a 15th place finish in 2014 narrowly avoiding the wooden spoon.
In 2016, fortunes looked on the up as Canberra as they finished second in the ladder, before bowing out in a tight preliminary final 14-12 against the Melbourne Storm.
Both 2017 and 2018 resulted in 10th-place finishes, not able to recreate what was seen in 2016.
2019, however, was much more positive. They finished third in the competition and were able to reach another grand final. However, in the final, they were not able to beat the Sydney Roosters in a game lost 14-8 in controversial circumstances
The Canberra Raiders currently play at the Canberra Stadium, adjacent to the Australian Institute of Sport, after they moved from the Seiffert Oval in 1990.
Their current record attendance at the Canberra Stadium is 26,476 - a figure that was achieved in a finals week 2 game back in 2010.