10 March 2020

It's taken a while, but the Raiders have come of age

| Tim Gavel
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Raiders new Centre of Excellence

The Raiders new Centre of Excellence is not just a facility for the Raiders, it will also support country rugby league in Southern NSW. Photo: Canberra Raiders.

Walking through the Raiders impressive new high tech, high-performance facility, it’s easy to forget the club’s journey from humble origins to this point.

In the early days, the Queanbeyan Leagues Club was the administration hub housing all the coaching staff, with training conducted at Seiffert Oval.

Over the years, the Raiders administration staff and coaches have been based at a range of ad hoc locations around Canberra, making do as best they could. For example, one building used by the Raiders at Bruce is now home to a childcare centre.

Even the location that now boasts the Centre of Excellence has a history with the Raiders – it once housed a number of mobile huts for the Raiders coaches to use.

In more recent times, staff have been based at the Bruce Headquarters.

Boot cleaning station

The Centre of Excellence caters for all aspects of football training, including boot cleaning.

On-field training will still take place at Bruce until the grass is fully functional at Braddon but everything else has been relocated to the new Centre of Excellence.

And it’s an impressive facility.

Set in the middle of the city, it incorporates a state-of-the-art gymnasium, extensive physiotherapy and team meeting rooms, and an area set aside to record and analyse games.

It is a far cry from the days when the Raiders were seen to be inferior when it came to training facilities, compared to many of their rivals, including the Roosters, the Storm and the Broncos.

“This facility now sets the standard,” says Raiders chairman Allan Hawke.

It’s not just a facility for the Raiders, either. Country rugby league teams in Southern NSW will be able to use it for their high-performance programs.

Funding for the project came from the NSW and ACT Governments and the Raiders Group.

Raiders Group

The Centre of Excellence was collaboratively funded by NSW and ACT Governments and the Raiders Group.

Raiders CEO Don Furner said the project has been in the pipeline for seven years: “This is the best example of cross-border funding. It offers kids in the region the same opportunity as they would in the city.”

What can’t be underestimated is the positive impact it will have on the playing group and players the Raiders are seeking to recruit.

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I think it is over the top and has moved the Raiders away from the community. In the 1980s and ’90s I worked out with Raiders players in the gym. We knew them, they were friends of ours and we shared their journey.

Now with this centre of excellence they have isolated themselves away as if they are a class apart. I saw the TV coverage of the gym and all the facilities and it seemed like a private club to which the public was shut out of, and which you and I paying our gym membership each fortnight would never be able to experience such opulence and privilege.

Bye bye Raiders, it was good to know you.

No issue with the facility, bar the argument that a facility primarily built for a professional football team shouldn’t really need significant government funding, but could they have not at least spent a little of that taxpayers money to make sure the Building doesn’t look like something that comes from 1972 Yugoslavia? The front facing on the ground is ok looking – the usual glass monstrosity, but the backside of the build is just disgusting, feral concrete with that yukky texture that went out of fashion 30 years ago. Yuk!

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