As the Raiders prepare to return to Seiffert Oval for the trial against the Roosters later this month, it’s worth reflecting on its significance for the team over the years.
Ricky Stuart vividly remembers as a young boy waiting outside the change room at Seiffert for the Raiders players to emerge after a game hoping for an autograph.
Later in life, Stuart went on to become one the club’s greatest players, guiding the club to three premierships and now, potentially, becoming the longest-serving coach in Raiders history.
History is important to Stuart.
He rightfully believes the current players and staff need to be fully across the origins of the club, its champion teams and players. His desire to ensure the current players are across the club’s history is evidenced by the walk down the tunnel to the change rooms at Canberra Stadium – the walls are lined with images and memories created by the Raiders’ significant past.
Important to that history is the club’s first home ground, Seiffert Oval, where the Raiders recorded their first-ever victory after seven losses in a row to start the club’s inaugural season in 1982.
Stuart as a young boy always wanted to play at Seiffert.
He recalls, “It was always a goal to play for the Raiders at Seiffert and I still remember the first day I ran out there, and that memory will be cherished forever. It’s nice to have the opportunity to go back and coach a Raiders team there”.
The trial against the Sydney Roosters on 27 February represents a rare foray back to Seiffert since the club moved its headquarters to Canberra after the 1989 season. They spent their first seven years at the ground.
Some original fans threatened to never attend another Raiders home game in protest. Some eventually relented while others have held to that promise.
Seiffert played its part in the 1989 premiership run with the Raiders defeating the Illawarra Steelers before going on to beat the Dragons away from home to make the finals.
From there the Raiders won another four to win their first and arguably their greatest premiership.
For sheer emotional entertainment, the game against the Broncos in 1989 at Seiffert will go down as one of the great moments in the club’s history. I commentated that game as 18,272 fans crammed into the facility to see the Raiders beat the Broncos 27-6.
For Stuart, those memories give added importance to the upcoming trial.
“It’s our spiritual home. It brings back many fond memories for me from when I was a young boy until now.”
Seiffert brings back memories of simpler times when you were so close to the on-field action, you could almost feel the contact.
“It’s one of those grounds where you literally have the spectators, the crowd, sitting right on top of you,” says Ricky.
The overall feel was earthier, less corporate.
Players rocked up to training in beaten up old utes, semi-fatigued from a day at work, while some players actually lived in a house on the grounds of Seiffert Oval.
‘The Taj’ as the house at Seiffert was known, was home to young players coming to the club from outside Canberra.
It is why the club’s first trial at Seiffert in four years is so important. It gives many supporters, many of whom haven’t had the opportunity to connect with the ground, a chance to do so.
Once there you will understand why it remains the Raiders spiritual home.