Raiders recovering after hellish 14-hour trip to Brisbane
IT WOULD'VE been quicker if Ricky Stuart had driven the team bus from Canberra.
The Raiders' preparation for Sunday's clash with premiers the Sydney Roosters has developed into the greatest test of their resolve after a nightmare 14-hour journey to Brisbane.
In a farcical and unimaginable case of horrible luck, the Raiders players were forced to fly from Canberra via Melbourne, where they were split up, arriving for the Magic Round in Brisbane without any gear or bags.
The normal one hour and 40-minute flight took the players seven hours after they were forced to sit on the tarmac of Canberra and Melbourne's runways.
However, the players got off lightly.
After being told to disembark with his players in Canberra, Stuart and his entire coaching staff flew with the team on a redirected flight to Melbourne.
Without enough seats to join the players on either of two separate flights available to Brisbane, the staff remained stranded at Tullamarine.
Raiders rookie Corey Horsburgh drew the short straw and also stayed back with the coaching staff.
For more than three hours the brains trust of the Green Machine sat at Melbourne airport, watching Friday's two NRL matches on their laptops.
After arriving in Melbourne at 3.15pm, Stuart and his staff and Horsburgh boarded a 10.30pm flight.
When they arrived in Brisbane close to midnight, they then needed to fill the team bus with more than 60 pieces of luggage, including the players bags, gear, training equipment and medical supplies.
The staff checked into Brisbane's Novotel hotel at 1.30am on Friday.
As a result of the travel failures, the Raiders were forced to cancel a team dinner and reschedule a members' signing session in Brisbane.
And if that wasn't enough, ASADA officers arrived for drug testing of Raiders players at 7.30am prior to their 10am captain's run on Saturday.
Wiping the sleep from his eyes after the team's final run, Canberra halfback Sam Williams said despite the opportunity for the group to whinge and complain, it was the opposite.
"We've seen a fair bit of Australia in the last 24 hours,'' Williams said.
"We were sitting on the tarmac for a while in Canberra. We were starting to wonder if we were ever going to get out of there.
"The next minute we're on a flight to Melbourne and then we sat there on the tarmac for a little bit longer and then got into Brisbane about 9pm last night.
"It's just lucky we had two days before the game rather than have the captains run (at home) and then come up.''
Williams said that after losing outstanding English forward John Bateman (cheekbone) and Joey Leilua (neck), the travel setback was just another chapter in the Raiders' character-building season.
"I guess sometimes we can get a bit precious with ourselves,'' Williams said.
"There's no doubt the modern athlete gets treated really well with all the sports science, but sometimes we look into things too much.
"If you can't get up for a game on Magic weekend against the premiers than you're probably just finding reasons not to win.
"I'd like to think with this group we've got now we're professional enough to overcome it.
"It wasn't ideal but I'm quite confident we can show the resolve that this Raiders side has.
"There'll be no issues … it was a bit of a laugh and it dragged on a bit but we're here for a reason.
"We enjoy travelling with each other and having a bit of a laugh and it's just another thing we have to overcome in the journey to get to finals football.''