Class of ’89 inspiring Canberra Raiders to create history of their own


Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has assigned some of his players a member of the ’89 squad to reach out to, with Joey Leilua given Daley.

The two have been playing phone tag and were yet to connect, but it’s part of Stuart’s plan to ensure his squad is fully emersed in the history of the Canberra club.

Leilua and his teammates have gone back to school, and the Raiders’ star centre knows all of Daley’s statistics that helped earn him a spot in the NRL Hall of Fame.

Now Leilua wants to help Canberra create some fresh history.

“It’s been 30 years. I guess we’re sick of seeing the past videos,” he said.

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“Congrats to all those players they deserved to be in that Hall of Fame. Hopefully one day I’m in it when we win a grand final here.

“It was an honour to witness those players. I didn’t get to watch them, I wasn’t even born when they won their first grand final.

“Hopefully we can do the same this year and bring it back.”

Bateman has loved learning the history of the club he joined in January.

The Englishman came to Canberra off the back of a successful stint at Wigan where he won the Super League premiership last year and in 2016, while also playing in two losing grand finals as well.

He said seeing legends like Mal Meninga, Stuart, Daley and Steve Walters was inspirational for the upcoming season.

Bateman hoped a fresh batch of Raiders NRL stars could emerge.

“Walters spoke about how in that 89 team they had a couple of big players, but a few of the players were not really big names and they went out that season to make big names of themselves,” he said.

“I think that’s quite a big thing for us. We’ve got a squad here where we’re all there and there abouts and we know how to do a good job.

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“That’s what we’re looking forward to, we’re looking forward to making a name for ourself this year.

“We want to create our own memories, we don’t want to carry on raving about the 89 team now. We want to be that team that people in the future will say, ‘Look at that team from 2019’.

“We’re looking forward to the season and making our own memories.”

Daley played 244 games for the Raiders, including all three of their premierships, 26 Tests for Australia and 23 State of Origins.

He said it was great the players knew about the past, but he said it was also important they knew they can create their own destiny.

Daley was excited about the Raiders’ prospects this year in a competition that could change markedly from one year to the next.

“It’s great that we can come back and be involved in the season launch,” he said.

“Thirty years ago sounds like a long time, but it’s great. The club has always been big on family and been big on connecting with the community.

“For us we feel humble that we’ve been invited back, it’s a privilege for us to come back and be a part of it.”

David Polkinghorne covers the Canberra Raiders, local rugby league, Canberra Cavalry, racing and cycling, along with every other sport, for The Canberra Times.

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