Rugby League


Canberra Raiders and Terry Campese need a resolution

Whether Terry Campese requested an extra month's leave at the start of Canberra Raiders' pre-season or, as per the story circulated on Wednesday, the club advised him to take another month off, does not matter.

Either way, it does not change the situation club and player find themselves in.

The Raiders and Campese must resolve this mess in the next month, before it flows into 2015.

"Everybody's come back with the right attitude," Raiders coach Ricky Stuart said on Wednesday, the opening day of pre-season.

"You can tell it in the players' body language, the way they bounced into training today, there's a great level of enthusiasm."

That Campese was not among them tells a different story of his mood. His absence, whether by his own request or that of the club, shows a major issue remains unresolved.


Campese is a fighter, a fierce competitor. It is partly why the 30-year-old has been refusing to call it quits on his professional career, despite having undergone two knee reconstructions that have robbed him of speed and power.

So his no-show for the first month of pre-season training, coupled with his absence at the club's end-of-season presentation last month, indicates he has either finally given up or been told he is virtually no hope of playing NRL for the Raiders again.

Campese and the Raiders are at a stalemate. Now it's time to thrash it out and reach closure.

Both have been tippy-toeing around this issue for too long.

There was muted criticism of Campese early last season, but only when he was injured late in the year was he dropped to NSW Cup and left there.

When anyone at the Raiders has since been asked about Campese's future at the club, the answer, now familiar, has been: "He's still contracted for 2015."

But in the background the Raiders were talking to Wests Tigers utility Blake Austin for months, and now they have landed a 23-year-old viewed as an obvious replacement for Campese.

The Raiders' ambiguity about Campese's future is understandable, given the club does not want to tarnish the legacy of a local player who has represented the club with pride for more than a decade. Nor does Campese want to bad-mouth a club he has supported since he was a kid and represented valiantly.

But the longer this drags out, the worse the stand-off seems. Stuart, who has not spoken to Campese since the beginning of the off-season, must reach out now and tell it to him straight.

Campese will not captain the Raiders next season. He was a long shot to even start the 2015 season in the NRL and now, as he will miss the first month of pre-season, he is Buckley's.

If the Raiders do not want him, then pay him out, every cent he deserves.

Campese also needs to make his own decisions. He is under personal and professional pressure.

His manager, Jim Banaghan, has been shopping for a new club, most likely in England's Super League. But options are limited.

So Campese needs to decide if he is genuine about continuing the fight.

When he was dropped to NSW Cup last season, Campese vowed to play on at the Raiders in 2015 and win back his spot.

If he can bring that attitude back to the club in a month's time, then perhaps his drive and enthusiasm can rub off on his teammates.

One never knows when opportunity will knock.

But if he cannot decide, and he stays on, disgruntled, then by the time the 2015 season rolls around, the enthusiasm, positive body language and attitude on day one of pre-season at the Canberra Raiders might have eroded.