Campese down but definitely not out
Terry Campese during training at Raiders HQ last week. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
He's suffered three season-ending injuries in his past nine NRL games, but Raiders skipper Terry Campese has indicated he's ready for the next fight to save his rugby league career.
And Raiders coach David Furner will return to training on Monday to deliver the message that Canberra's 2012 season isn't finished either.
The Raiders were in shock yesterday as their skipper underwent his second knee reconstruction in 19 months, ruling him out for the remainder of the 2012 season.
His two knee surgeries were compounded by a torn adductor in his groin last season, which restricted him to only eight minutes of football in 2011.
While Campese is devastated, a text message to teammate Brett White - also out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee - shows the 27-year-old has not given up on an NRL future.
''He sent me a text, just saying that it looks like we're going to be training partners for the next nine months,'' White told The Canberra Times.
Even until Tuesday afternoon when he went into surgery for an arthriscope, Campese had been confident his latest knee problem would not be a long-term injury.
Instead, he awoke from the operation on Tuesday night to news that he would require a knee reconstruction, which he had yesterday afternoon at the National Capital Private Hospital in Garran.
Campese has received supportive messages, including from Raiders legend Mal Meninga who detailed how he'd overcome doubters to return from four broken arms between 1987-88.
Furner also backed his captain, saying ''he's done it once, he can do it again''.
Campese adds to a bulging Raiders casualty ward which includes White (knee), fullback Josh Dugan (shoulder), lock Shaun Fensom (torn bicep), Kiwi international Bronson Harrison (ankle) and forward Trevor Thurling (knee).
Dugan, Fensom, Harrison and Thurling are all outside shots of being fit for Canberra's next match, against the Cronulla Sharks on April 29.
Campese is Canberra's biggest casualty by far, the club's premiership odds blowing out from $34 to $51 with betting agencies yesterday. But Furner, currently in New Zealand as an assistant coach to the Australian Kangaroos, refused to write off the season.
''No way,'' Furner fired when asked if Canberra's season was in tatters. ''We've won some games without some key players, I'm looking forward to the season, we've got to carry on.
''I think we're in a better position than last year. The group has to look at this as a massive challenge.
''It'd be nice to get a few of those players back to strengthen the side … they're getting close but I don't think they'll be right for Cronulla. They're not far off, but you want to make sure they're right to go.''
Former Raiders skipper Alan Tongue said the return of Dugan would still give Canberra the firepower to compete for the finals.
''It [missing Dugan and Campese] is a bit like Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk being out of the Melbourne Storm side, it's a massive hole. But I think they've got more than enough talent in the side to make the finals, they've just got to really come together.''
Campese signed a six-year deal in mid-2009, pledging loyalty to the club until the end of 2015.
Raiders chief executive Don Furner, who was with Campese on Tuesday night when he received the bad news, deflected criticism that the long-term deal had backfired.
''He was reasonably positive last night, so we've got to get behind him and give him the best help we can,'' Furner said.
''As he said last night, he played footy for 26 years and had no injuries. All of a sudden in the last 24 months he's had two knees and a groin, that can be the way that it is.''
Don Furner also defended the decision to play Campese against the Brisbane Broncos, and said Campese had received a clearance from his surgeon.
''I understand people will want to blame somebody, but I don't know why [the high injury-rate] is happening.''
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