After an early-season winter stall, Canberra captain Jarrod Croker believes the Green Machine is starting to click nicely into gear in the lead-up to the NRL finals.
Ravaged with injury and widely written off a month ago, the resurgent Raiders have emerged once again as title contenders after winning four of their past five games to be back on the cusp of the all-important top four.
Despite being down on troops, last year's beaten grand finalists have survived a torrid block of matches against heavyweights Melbourne, defending premiers the Sydney Roosters, Parramatta and South Sydney with their hopes intact.
"We've had some big challenges and it seems to be when we've had a big match we've played really well," Croker said before Saturday's latest road test against table-toppers Penrith.
"We haven't won all of them, we went to golden point against the Eels, but we're certainly standing up in the big matches.
"But it's about winning them and Penrith, top of the ladder, there's no bigger challenge at the moment in the competition.
"So another big match and hopefully the big guns stand up."
Tellingly, the Raiders are finally starting to resemble a full-strength line-up although they will be without influential hooker and co-captain Josh Hodgson for the remainder of their 2020 campaign.
But they are still getting the job done.
"We haven't played our best in a couple of those games and still won," Croker said.
"That's a positive sign for the back end of the season.
"You don't want to be peaking in the middle of the season.
"You just need to be winning games and working your way up into that top four and peaking towards the back end of the year.
"So hopefully that's what we're doing."
Australian Associated Press