Shaun Berrigan returned to training with the Raiders on Tuesday. Photo: Colleen Petch
Canberra Raiders veteran Shaun Berrigan has quashed retirement rumours by declaring himself a certain starter for the club next year.
The 34-year-old returned to training on Tuesday, and insisted he did not contemplate hanging up the boots to start working in the Queensland mines.
Berrigan began a two-year deal with Canberra last year, and declared he always planned to take up an option in his contract to play on in 2013.
Family issues were the major reason behind Berrigan's delayed start to the pre-season. He trained by himself on the Gold Coast, where he was providing support for his daughter, who had an operation early last week.
''I was always contracted to the Raiders and am definitely playing next year,'' Berrigan said.
''I had some personal family issues I had to deal with up there, and 'Furnsey' [coach David Furner] gave me some extra time to sort that out, which I was very grateful for.
''I was always going to come back. It's just one of those things we had to deal with as a family.
''Something popped up there, the family's going to stay on the coast for a bit and they'll join me in a couple of weeks.''
Berrigan's return provides a massive relief for the Raiders, who began pre-season without any of their hookers in full training.
The likely starting No.9, Glen Buttriss, is still a few weeks away from being able to run after experiencing complications with off-season ankle surgery.
Youngster Matt McIlwrick is also rehabilitating, having suffered a similar injury, while Mick Picker is set to miss the first two months of pre-season following hip surgery.
Berrigan refused to rule out playing beyond next season, and will assess how his body is handling the rigours of NRL when the time comes. ''It's too early to say, I'll just get into pre-season, play footy and go from there,'' he said.
''I'm still playing footy because I love it and am capable and still enjoying it.
''I don't let anything else drive me but wanting to play in the big games at the end of the year.''
Berrigan started last season in the centres, but excelled after switching to a dummy-half role from the bench.
''I think it's handy for Furnsey to play me off the bench because I can cover a few positions,'' he said.
''It's a bonus I can play centre if need be if something goes wrong in a game, but 'Crokes' [Jarrod Croker] is outstanding and Blake [Ferguson] was so devastating last year.
''I played a lot of 'nine' last year and I think Furnsey was pretty happy with me.''
Berrigan said Canberra was focused on learning from its slow start to last year, forcing it to launch a stirring, late-season rally to qualify for the finals.
''Hopefully we can get off to a good start and not chase our tails again - it probably caught up with us at the end of the year,'' Berrigan said.
''We took some really bad defeats, but showed some character to win a few and get in the semis when everyone wrote us off.''