Terry Campese's focus is on the Raiders, not playing for Italy at next year's World Cup. Photo: Steve Christo
Canberra skipper Terry Campese says playing in next year's World Cup is the furthest thing from his mind - his sole focus is on making up for lost time with the Raiders.
Reports emerged last week that Italy plans to gauge the five-eighth's interest in playing at the tournament in England and Wales starting in October.
Raiders utility Shaun Berrigan is also in Italy's sights, and Roosters full-back Anthony Minichiello and former NRL star Craig Gower are already confirmed.
Campese has begun hard running as he continues to rehabilitate after rupturing an anterior cruciate ligament which has ruined his last two seasons.
''That's over a year away, that tournament - to be honest I haven't even though about that,'' Campese said. ''I'd rather focus on myself, and focus on playing well for the Raiders, not a World Cup in a year's time.
''It's a hard question [whether he would be interested] - I'd rather be playing good football for the Raiders first.''
Sam Williams was a revelation deputising for Campese in the halves last season despite being dropped midway through the year. The 21-year-old forged a potent halves partnership with Josh McCrone.
Now Campese plans to embrace the challenge of reclaiming his place.
''Competition's always great for any team and the way the team finished off last year, everyone's competing for every position on the field,'' he said. ''I don't think anyone's locked in a spot this far out. [Williams] got man of the match in the first semi, which just shows how well he was playing.
''He was one of the catalysts in steering the ship and getting the boys into the position they were in.
''It definitely didn't surprise me, you can see how composed he is in everyday life and that just transfers out onto the footy field.''
Raiders prop Brett White is ahead of schedule in his comeback from the anterior cruciate ligament injury he suffered in round five against the Cowboys. He and Campese have fed off each other during their hard days out on the track.
''If I start to think it's getting hard and I'm doing it tough, I just look at what Campo's gone through,'' White, the Raiders vice-captain, said.
''It's great to have him around, it's a lot harder when you're on your own coming back from an injury, but to have someone else there when someone's having a tough day, the other person's there to help them through.''
White's frustration at being injured and missing most of the season was tempered by watching the club's younger players develop their leadership skills.
He declared the Raiders side was better positioned than ever to handle adversity, with the likes of Shaun Fensom, 24, Jarrod Croker, 22, and Joel Thompson, 24, assuming more senior roles.
''It's not good to have injuries to your leaders, but the positive is it allows the younger blokes to step up and develop to those levels,'' White said. ''It's great for the team to have that depth; the last thing we want is to be top heavy and relying on certain blokes.''
Campese has made the best of his time away from the game by immersing himself in charity work, in particular his role as an ambassador for CanTeen ACT.
The 28-year-old will hold his second annual golf day at Federal Golf Club on Friday, and hopes to raise $100,000 for CanTeen and other local charities.
Newcastle Knights legend Andrew Johns heads a number of celebrities confirmed for the event, which tees off with a shotgun start at 12.30pm.