Rugby League

Can Terry Campese and the Canberra Raiders handle the truth?

Terry Campese won't play another NRL game for the Canberra Raiders.

There, I said it. Someone had to. It sounds cruel and callous. It's devoid of any sentiment and it doesn't reflect the admiration I have for the bloke as a fierce competitor and generous community ambassador.

The Raiders must come clear on the future of Terry Campese.
The Raiders must come clear on the future of Terry Campese. Photo: Jay Cronan

But I'm convinced it's the truth. And, if truth be told, a swift kick in the guts is better than bleeding to death by paper cuts.

There are two stories about why Campese has taken leave from the first month of pre-season. The Raiders claim he requested it, while those close to Campese say he was told by the Raiders not to show up.

Nick Kyrgios was unlucky not to be nominated for the ACTSport Athlete of the Year Awards.
Nick Kyrgios was unlucky not to be nominated for the ACTSport Athlete of the Year Awards. Photo: Getty Images

Both sides are probably convinced they're right, which is possible, given delicate negotiations like these can easily become a matter of interpretation, depending which side of the fence you're sitting.

But the danger for the Raiders is that there are already mixed messages circulating, no doubt among the playing group, too. There's been too much grey over Campese's future for too long. It's time to make the message clear - black and white.

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Campese is not in the Raiders' future plans and, if he comes back at all, it will be with NSW Cup team Mounties. Canberra has snared Campese's replacement by recruiting Blake Austin from the Wests Tigers, while junior Sam Williams returns to the club as another halves option.

I get what the Raiders are trying to do. Campese has given great service to them on and off the field for a decade. They don't want to sully his legacy.

There's also commercial sense. Why declare Campese unwanted, given other clubs might be looking at him and prepared to pay part of his $500,000 salary. Real estate agents sell homes by describing them as renovators' dreams.

The Raiders would not want Campese at pre-season right now, kicking the can and having any negativity rub off on other players. But their exit strategy for a club champion is backfiring and the longer it drags on, the worse it could get. 

An old rugby league identity once told me: "Players are like a piece of meat, when you're off, they spit you out."

All clubs have to deal with moving players on. The NRL is a cut-throat professional business. But how a club deals with that can have a big impact on how they're perceived.

Cut players often find a new NRL club. They then find a new group of teammates. Eventually some of those new teammates are moved on or look for a change themselves. So they ask teammates about the previous clubs they've been at.

The NRL is a small world. There are Raiders players, from this year and recent seasons, who've been unhappy with the way they've been cut, citing a lack of communication.

They could just be disgruntled former employees. But when you're known in the NRL world for cold weather, politicians and lacking a beach, you don't need other reasons to discourage players coming to Canberra.

ACTSport awards need revamp

It's time to hit refresh on the ACTSport Athlete of the Year Awards.

This is not to discredit the performances of this year's co-winners, paracyclist Sue Powell and BMX star Caroline Buchanan. They've enjoyed fantastic international success and their performances warrant recognition. But, frankly, there should have at least been a few more contenders in the race.

Last year's overall winner, tennis ace Nick Kyrgios, wasn't even among the three male finalists. This just in from super brat John McEnroe - you can't be serious!

Sure, last year Kyrgios was world junior No.1 and took out the Australian Open junior title. But this year he beat THE world No.1 and global superstar Rafael Nadal on Wimbledon's centre court and made the quarter-finals at the All England club.

Kyrgios' first complete year on the senior professional tour was comparable at grand slams to the debut seasons of Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Nadal. He played Davis Cup and actually helped Australia win a tie for once.

Not even Kyrgios' mum gave the teenager a chance against Nadal, a performance so great that Kyrgios was a finalist for The Don Award this year for the most inspirational sporting performance by an Australian athlete.

So why wasn't he even among the finalists for the ACT's top gong? It's not like the panel should have needed to refer this oversight to Hawkeye, the ball was so far out of court that it landed in the stands.

Kyrgios is ranked No.51 in the world, while Powell and Buchanan dominated their events in 2014. But not all events are created equal either, in terms of numbers and competition. How do you judge individuals in team sports?

While she failed to deliver at the big meet of the year, the Commonwealth Games in February, Canberra sprinter Melissa Breen broke the 100-metre record of Melinda Gainsford-Taylor that had stood for 20 years.

It was on her home track in Canberra, beating hurdles champion Sally Pearson, who actually went on to claim The Don Award. No mention of Breen either among finalists at the ACTSport awards.

Can I suggest an award for sporting headline of the year, a recognition of the biggest moments in Canberra sport.

To ACTSport's credit, this year they acknowledged home-grown talent that had flown the coop by introducing the Harry Marr Award, which went to NBA championship winner Patty Mills, ahead of Australian wicketkeeper Brad Haddin and Tour de France stage winner Michael Rogers.

The recognition of grassroots community sport must maintain its place. But we should continue to celebrate our sporting stars who developed in the ACT, let them know this is home and we're still cheering them on.

On that point, the timing of the event also needs to be looked at, given all six of the male and female finalists were unable to attend Friday night's event. Maybe closer to the end of the calendar year?