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cricket

Underdog Raiders claim popular sentiment for NRL grand final against the Roosters

Roosters, Raiders out to make history in NRL grand final

The Roosters are aiming to win back-to-back titles for the first time in the NRL era, while Canberra will be looking to end a 25-year premiership drought in the 2019 NRL grand final.

Canberra Raiders skipper Jarrod Croker stops short of describing his side’s NRL grand final matchup against the Sydney Roosters as a battle between the haves and have-nots, but he’s happy to claim popular sentiment for his side.

Sunday’s season-decider at ANZ Stadium [kickoff 6.05pm NZ time] shapes as a classic battle between contrasting clubs and teams.

One one side are the blue-blood Roosters, from Sydney’s rich eastern suburbs, a sleek football machine appearing in their eighth grand final since the Raiders last appeared in one 25 years ago.

Their title defence is steered by retirement-bound Cooper Cronk, arguably the greatest finals player in the game’s history, and James Tedesco, widely considered the best player in the world.

So Stuart and Raiders management turned to some creative recruiting to pull together their grand-final team.

Among them are players from all corners including England [John Bateman, Josh Hodgson, Elliott Whitehead], park rugby union [Jordan Rapana] and cut-price signings from other clubs [Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad].

No one represents the spirit of the Raiders better than co-skipper Croker, a country boy from Goulburn who has never considered leaving during a fine 11-season career, such is his love for the lime-green jersey.

Asked if he believed most league fans outside of Sydney’s eastern suburbs would get behind the Raiders, Croker was confident.

“I reckon they will,” he said.

“We’ve got a strong following in Sydney, if you look at our games we’ve got a lot of fans based there.

“Queensland – we’ve always had a big following there since Mal [Meninga] and Badge [Gary Belcher] way back in the early 90s. Papa [Josh Papalii] is from up there and plays for Queensland.

“We have a real strong connection outside of Canberra. A lot of the country towns through NSW, we’ve got a lot of country boys and we’re a bit of a country club.”

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