Shut down Farah, Meninga warns Raiders Greg Prichard
September 16, 2010
THE greatest Raider of them all - big Mal Meninga - last night declared Canberra were good enough to win the premiership. However, he warned that if they went into tomorrow’s night’s elimination semi-final against Wests Tigers without their heads screwed on, Tigers hooker Robbie Farah could tear them apart.
‘‘Farah has done it to the Raiders before,’’ Meninga said. ''He’s got the ability to catch the defence out in the middle of the field, if they’re not on their game. He can do it to anyone.
‘‘The Tigers are a smart side, with a really good hooker and halves. They’ll try to beat the Raiders by attacking through the middle of the ruck. If they’re given any latitude, they’ll be very dangerous. The Raiders have got to do well in that battle.’’
Meninga, who captained Canberra to their last premiership win, in 1994, represented Australia in 46 Tests and has more recently achieved enormous success on the coaching stage by steering Queensland to a record five straight State of Origin series wins, said he was getting an ‘‘enormous buzz’’ out of the rise of his old club.
‘‘Up here in Queensland, the Titans are all the rage at the moment, but I’m really excited by what the Raiders are doing,’’ he said.
''I’ve talked to some of my old teammates, like Gary Belcher and Steve Walters, and they’re getting a big buzz out of it as well.
''The Raiders have made the finals a few times since the club’s last premiership, but this is a potentially great Canberra side.
''I think they’ve got a lot up their sleeve that is going to come out further down the track, but it’s like what people are saying - they’re developing so quickly, and they’ve put themselves in such a good position, that the future can start now for them, in this finals series.
‘‘Going on performance all season, you would have to say the Dragons are the dead-set favourites to win the comp - they’ve been enormously consistent, and defensively they’re outstanding. But the second-best team defensively, coming into the business end of the season, has been the Raiders.’’
Meninga described it as a great boost for the Raiders to have a home game this week, as long as they did not let the occasion get to them.
‘‘They can win the competition, but they’ve got to take it one game at a time,’’ he said. ‘‘They’ll be playing in front of a big home crowd, and they’ve got to thrive on that support rather than let the occasion get to them. You can become shackled by the pressure of playing on an occasion like that, so they’ve got to go out with one thing in mind - to play like they’ve been playing.’’
Meninga praised the contribution of second-year coach David Furner, who was a teammate of his in that 1994 side that thrashed Canterbury 36-12 in the decider.
‘‘David has clearly done a great job of taking the players to another level in terms of their ability to believe in themselves and each other,’’ Meninga said. ''He’ll use his experience this week, and set a plan for the players and make sure they follow it. They play really good footy - it’s a really good style that is great to watch. They can only get better in the next couple of years, but they’ve got a chance to do something now.
'‘The way the competition is these days, if you make the finals in any position, you’re a chance of winning it. It’s what’s in the players’ heads now that will determine how well they do.
‘‘This is the arena you want to be playing in - finals footy. It’s where you can make your reputation.’’
Told that the Raiders were clear favourites with bookmakers against a Tigers side that has well-documented injury problems, Meninga said that didn’t matter.
‘‘I don’t regard any teams as favourites in games like this,’’ he said. ''It’s about momentum at this time of the year. The Raiders have got that, but I believe the Tigers have as well, even though they lost to the Roosters last weekend.
‘‘After 60 minutes of that game, the Tigers looked like coming out of the weekend as the best-performed team. They’re a big threat in this game.’’