The world's number one fullback.
Not since this time last year have I been so excited about an upcoming season and what better way to start it than by snatching two competition points against southern rivals Melbourne?
The Melbourne Storm is nearly everyone’s favourite opponent. Aside from having some of the biggest names in rugby league, they have also proven themselves to be the most innovative club of the last decade, creating over a dozen new tackling techniques – two of which are still legal. It is this kind of creativity that has the Storm touted as one of the premiership favourites for 2012.
Despite all this, the word from inside the Storm camp is that players are beginning to doubt their ability to go all the way. Consider this: the Storm has featured in four grand-finals over the last six years but haven’t won a premiership since 1999.
The former world's best fullback.
Compounding the Storm’s problems is the fact the Raiders have won two of the last three clashes between the clubs. Few fans will forget Raiders winger Blake Ferguson pulling off one of the plays of the 2011 season with a chip and chase to score the winning try during Round 10. It was one of only two home defeats for the Storm and once again showed Ferguson’s knack for judging when to take risks.
The Raiders won’t be thinking about the Storm’s problems in the lead-up to Saturday evening. They will be enjoying the return of Terry Campese after an injury-plagued 2011 season. We may have lost Alan Tongue but there is no less love for the club from the new captain.
Campo may not have contributed much in his eight minutes last year but he was still able to produce more positives in that time than marquee-signing Matt Orford. Orford demonstrated against the Gold Coast in Round Four why he has the nickname ‘Ox’ by knocking on the ball at the base of a scrum the way only someone with hoofs for hands could. Fortunately, Raiders management sent the ex-Manly half out to pasture, after the rise of Josh McCrone and Sam Williams showed there is plenty of ability in the Canberra stock.
The Canberra Raiders squad pose at Federation Mall in Canberra. Photo: Stuart Walmsley
But even Campo’s return has been overshadowed by the re-signing of Raiders superstar Josh Dugan. Dugan’s commitment to the club sent fans into raptures and it means we have the best fullback in the world locked in until the end of 2014.
The previous best fullback in the world, Billy Slater, will get an opportunity to personally hand over his crown on Saturday. Slater will no doubt look to learn all he can from watching Dugan up close, in a bid to extend his time in the NRL a few more years.
In related news, Melbourne captain, Cameron Smith, said he was glad ex-Storm player, Greg Inglis, had recovered from an ankle injury suffered while whilst flexing a bicep during the Indigenous All-Stars match. Smith wished Inglis all the best, adding that even though Inglis was now lining up for South Sydney, the two maintained the tight bond formed over the many years they received illegal third-party payments together.
Melbourne always brings at least half a dozen ragged supporters to each match, so make sure you get down to Canberra Stadium on Saturday evening to support your team and watch the Raiders kick off the season in style.