Raiders ready to be hunted in 2020 NRL

Canberra co-captain Jarrod Croker (top) says only an NRL premiership will satisfy the Raiders.
Canberra co-captain Jarrod Croker (top) says only an NRL premiership will satisfy the Raiders.

Canberra may have reached their first grand final in 25 years last September but their message heading into the 2020 NRL season is blunt - we haven't achieved anything yet.

Co-captain Josh Hodgson says the premiership window is wide open for the Raiders but warns they must be ready to become the hunted after going to close last season.

They've retained the bulk of their squad with the biggest change being the arrival of England international George Williams replace Aidan Sezer at halfback.

The left-edge combination of Joey Leilua and Jordan Rapana has departed with Curtis Scott recruited from Melbourne to play centre.

The Raiders now have all of their spine players contracted until at least 2022.

Hooker Hodgson, Williams, five-eighth Jack Wighton and fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad have all committed long-term in pursuit of the club's first premiership since 1994.

"We've also got Josh Papalii, Joe Tapine, Elliott Whitehead, quite a lot of the side are locked down for the next three years so it's a really good opportunity for us," Hodgson told AAP.

"We've just got to keeping working leading into what's going to be a big couple of years for us after the bitterly disappointing loss last year.

"But we're not looking too far ahead.

"It doesn't matter how good we did last year, every team starts on zero and we'll definitely be one of those teams getting hunted."

Sezer directed play alongside Hodgson in 2019 and the latter backed Australia and NSW utility Wighton to take over that role after his successful switch from fullback to the halves last season.

"Jacko was outstanding for us last year and in pre-season he looks very sharp," Hodgson said.

"His kicking game is on point, he's so strong running, he's agile, he's really a full package No.6.

"The organisational role is going to be his lead this year with Aidan moving on, he'll pull the strings alongside me and he's already really stepped up there.

"George (Williams) will give us that real threat both sides of the ball when he sees space.

"He's pretty quick and has a short kicking game too which is handy close to the line."

Hodgson's fellow co-captain Jarrod Croker emphasised the core group are staying in Canberra to win a premiership.

"We didn't achieve anything last year. We had a good year but we didn't win the comp and our goal is to win the comp so it's back to square one," he said.

"Every club is starting round one with a clean slate and there's no easing into it.

"We'll be hunted from round one so we've got to adjust and we've got to adapt and we've just got to better."

Star Englishman John Bateman is battling to be fit for round one after undergoing shoulder surgery.

CANBERRA

Finishes over the past three seasons: 2019 - 2nd, 2018 - 10th, 2017 - 10th

Coach: Ricky Stuart

Co-captains: Josh Hodgson and Jarrod Croker

Key gains: George Williams (Wigan), Curtis Scott (Melbourne).

Key losses: Aidan Sezer (Huddersfield), Joey Leilua (Wests Tigers), Jordan Rapana (rugby union).

Best team: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 2. Nick Cotric, 3. Jarrod Croker, 4. Curtis Scott, 5. Bailey Simonsson, 6. Jack Wighton, 7. George Williams, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Josh Hodgson, 10. Sia Soliola, 11. John Bateman, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Joe Tapine. Bench: 14. Michael Oldfield, 15. Corey Horsburgh, 16. Hudson Young, 17. Dunamis Lui.

Predicted finish: 5th

Australian Associated Press