Ashley Gilbert gives his take on Canberra Raiders' grand final defeat

In the aftermath of a heartbreaking grand final loss to the Sydney Roosters, the Canberra Raiders have been inundated with messages of support.

Shattered: Jarrod Croker fell to his knees after Canberra's narrow loss to the Roosters in Sunday night's grand final. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong.

Shattered: Jarrod Croker fell to his knees after Canberra's narrow loss to the Roosters in Sunday night's grand final. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong.

Among the thousands of Green Machine fans voicing their sympathy is Crookwell local and Raiders legend, Ashley Gilbert.

Gilbert, who played 129 matches for Canberra from 1982 to 1990, said that he was "a bit disappointed for the boys."

"I remember what it's like to lose a grand final," he said.

"They should be very proud of their efforts because jeez they put in a great performance. You couldn't knock the effort under any circumstances.

"If the ball bounced the right way for them on a couple of occasions, they score a try and win the match."

Luck was not with the Raiders on Sunday night, as even in the opening minutes a potential try was snubbed after the ball hit a Roosters trainer behind play and forced a scrum.

Former Raider: Ashley Gilbert (pictured) played for the Raiders 129 times between 1982 and 1990, and was a key forward in Canberra's early days. Photo: Supplied.

Former Raider: Ashley Gilbert (pictured) played for the Raiders 129 times between 1982 and 1990, and was a key forward in Canberra's early days. Photo: Supplied.

From there, fortune generally went the Roosters' way despite Canberra dominating much of the play.

This trend came to a head in the 71st minute, when referee Ben Cummins called for a repeat Raiders set on the Roosters' tryline, only to reverse the decision seconds later.

With Canberra clearly caught off-guard, the Roosters took advantage of the furore to cross for the match-winning try.

While many in the rugby league community have been critical of Cummins for this call, Gilbert gave the referee the benefit of the doubt.

"It ended up being the right call, it was [just] disappointing the way it turned out to be the right call," he said.

"When the dust settles and everyone's clear about it, it didn't happen right on the Canberra tryline so our boys had the opportunity to defend it and get the ball back again.

"I tend not to blame the referee for winning and losing games. If both sides played the perfect game and never made a mistake, and the referee made a mistake, maybe then you can blame them."

Amid the drama on the field, the Raiders were supported at Sydney's Stadium Australia by a huge contingent of Canberra fans.

Despite the match taking place in the Roosters' home city, Gilbert was not surprised by the amount of Raiders fans present.

"Every bloke loves an underdog and Canberra were clearly the underdogs," he said.

"We've got a pretty strong fanbase and they're dedicated fans. It didn't surprise me at all that the stadium was full of green."

Now that all is said and done, Gilbert said that the important thing is for the Raiders to take the positives out of the season and keep moving forward.

"[Losing the grand final is] a pain in the gut I tell you, it'll take the players a while to get over," he said.

"They can take an enormous amount of confidence out of this year and yesterday's game. They battled right through and turned a couple of deficiencies around in their game.

"Their defence is strong and they made the grand final and were right in it until the last five minutes. I can't see any reason why they won't go into next season full of confidence."

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