Matt Lane has been around rugby league a long time so when he says his Macquarie Raiders are building towards something it’s worth taking note.
Whether that something is a Group 11 title this season he’s not sure, but the Raiders hooker is adamant there’s plenty of promise around his club.
The Raiders, touted by some as a genuine premiership threat after a host of off-season signings, battled for consistency for much of the year and it was only after last weekend’s win over Wellington was finals football secured.
The Raiders host the Narromine Jets in the penultimate round before the finals on Saturday and Lane said his side is now on track.
“We’re not far off being a top team,” Lane said.
“We’ve improved as the year has gone on and whether or not we’re still a year off I’m not sure.
“I’m not writing off this year but if we keep these players together and add one or two more then it will be a very good side.”
Lane came back into the fold the 2017 campaign after having the 2016 season off.
A former Raiders premiership winner, he scored in his side’s 2012 grand final win over CYMS, and also reserve grade coach, Lane stepped into the shoes of the influential Jeremy Smith, who departed Dubbo for Port Macquarie, this season.
While he may not have the flair or creative spark Smith provided, Lane has slotted in seamlessly in both defence and attack and has been one of the Raiders most consistent performers this season.
“It’s been good. I sat out 2016 and thought I was done,” he said.
“But circumstances change and I wanted to come back but I wasn’t sure if I would play first grade.
“But it’s been good to be back among the boys and it (hooker) is a pretty tough position to play but I think it’s been a pretty good year so far.”
Circumstances have also changed for Willie Wright, who is set to return to the Raiders number seven jersey this weekend.
Wright was a shining light during the first half of the season before returning to his hometown club of the Walgett Dragons in the Barwon Darling League.
But he has been named in the number seven jersey for Saturday’s game against a Jets side which found form in the second half of this season but fell short of making the finals.
The Jets scored a shock 26-22 win in the corresponding fixture earlier this year, a match Lane was unavailable for.
“I think they’ll be tough,” Lane said.
“I think they’ve been reasonably similar to us and pushed some of the top teams and I think if they keep their players together they will climb the ladder next year too.
“On paper they’ve got a good side and they’ll be keen to finish their season on a high.”
The action at Caltex Park on Saturday starts with league tag at 11am. First grade is expected to kick off at 2.30pm.