Follow all the action as the Roosters take on the Raiders in the NRL grand final.

When Andrew McFadden arrived in Canberra last October, he quickly realised he had a massive challenge.

Head coach Ricky Stuart wanted to turn the Raiders into a defensive powerhouse, and put a lot of responsibility for developing the structure and systems on to his new assistant coach.

The results have been spectacular, with Canberra in their first grand final tonight — against the Roosters at ANZ Stadium in Sydney — in 25 years, built around a miserly defence.


A lot of credit goes to McFadden, but the road hasn't been easy.

After six years in Auckland, including three campaigns at the helm of the Warriors, "Cappy" returned home last October, to be closer to family.

During his first few conversations with Stuart, he realised the principle objective for the year.

"We had an 80 per cent emphasis on defence in the pre-season," said McFadden. "We put so much energy into it, wanted to be a defensive team this year. We didn't look too much on the offensive side of things, it was all about defensive structures and detail."

The Raiders had been the second best attacking team in 2018 — only the Storm were more lethal — and in 2017, they were third in terms of points scored. But they missed the top eight both seasons.

"The Raiders had notoriously been good at attack but didn't have a defensive edge, that's why Ricky made a change."

The transformation began ahead of pre-season, as McFadden and fellow assistant Brett White hatched their plans.

"There were a lot of conversations, a few arguments about what we wanted, but we agreed on a lot of things," said McFadden. "We devised a plan and we stuck at it from the word go."


Then the players had to be convinced.

"It wasn't all smooth sailing, there were certainly some arguments and resistance and we had our ups and downs. But they all understood it at the end."

The impact was immediate.

The Raiders held the Gold Coast to nil in round one — their first clean sheet in six years — and won five of their first six games.

"When you get some good results early in the season, especially from a defensive point of view, it helps you consolidate and believe in what you are practising."

There were still some bumps in the road, with McFadden identifying the 22-16 defeat to the Eels in Darwin in round 16, where they blew a 16-0 lead, as a flashpoint.

"That is probably where our season turned. We really had a good look at ourselves about where we want to go as a group.

"The next week, we went to play the Dragons in Wollongong, a place we hadn't won for a while, and we really smacked them [36-14]."

McFadden was also pivotal to the recruitment of Charnze Nicholl-Klokstad, who was surplus to requirements at the Warriors.

"It has been quite extraordinary," said McFadden. "I always had a high opinion of Charnze, but I didn't expect him to do so well and be so consistent. I knew he would have an impact in the group — he's a competitive guy, trains really well and is a real pro.

"But in terms of playing the whole season in the highest pressure position on the field and handling it, and making a real impact, it has exceeded my expectations. It shows sometimes guys just need a chance and he has earned everything he has got."

Like everyone from Australia's capital, McFadden is buzzing about being part of the NRL's biggest day, but knows there is a simple recipe against the reigning premiers.

"You have to start well," said McFadden. "Both times [this year], the Roosters got some soft points on us early. If they get scoreboard pressure on you, they have got the guys that can control the game.

"We will need to dig in and keep them to very few points, because they will be tough to score points on. But it's a grand final; everything changes once that first ball is kicked."