You do not have to be a Raiders fan to feel joy for recruit Ryan James, who charged his way over the try line in his first NRL match in 693 days.
- Ryan James’s last NRL match was in round six, 2019
- James was previously the longest serving Titans player, with 144 games across 10 years
- The 29-year-old is contracted with the Raiders until the end of the 2022 season
It was an emotional moment for the forward, who considered retirement last year following back-to-back ACL injuries while captaining the Gold Coast Titans.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart praised James’s courage and determination, which helped Canberra claim a 30-12 round one victory over the West Tigers.
“I was just really happy for him that he got through what would have been a pretty nervous day for him, because he’s been a player that’s had some bad luck with a couple of knee reconstructions,” Stuart said.
“It was nice for Ryan James from an individual point of view that he got through an NRL game with his new club.”
The 29-year-old arrived in Canberra ahead of the 2021 pre-season following a 10-year career at the Titans starring in 144 matches.
Unfortunately for James, the final two years of his Titans contract were spent in rehab after suffering his first ACL injury in the early rounds of 2019, before a second at training which saw him miss the entire 2020 season.
Eager to put his best foot at the Raiders, James moved his family earlier than anticipated to ensure he was in good stead by the time the 2021 season rolled around.
“He’s worked extremely hard all off-season. He’s just a real professional,” Stuart said.
“What I admire about Ryan was that him, Anna and the kids, they came to Canberra earlier than he needed to, to get him ready for his season.
“He started training with our under 20s. You visualise and imagine the buzz that our under-20s had with a guy such as his stature in the game — 10 seasons he’s played as an NRL player — and he’s in the gym training with the under-20s, 19s and 18-year-olds.”
Stuart said he had not planned to name the forward in his starting line-up for the round one clash, but he could not look past his work ethic to be ready for a return.
“I don’t know when he was expecting to play NRL but he’s worked his way right through the pre-season into a position to start in the 17 this week,” he said.
The Canberra Raiders hit the road in round two to face the Cronulla Sharks.