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Campese returns to driver's seat

Date

Jon Tuxworth

Terry Campese will return to the Raiders' starting side this week.

Terry Campese will return to the Raiders' starting side this week. Photo: STUART WALMSLEY

After more than a year of injury frustration, Terry Campese is finally back in the Raiders driver's seat.

For the first time in 382 days, on Tuesday the Canberra skipper will reclaim the green No.6 jersey he covets.

Having started on the bench in his first two games back from a second knee operation, Campese will be named at five-eighth for Saturday's crunch clash in Melbourne.

The Raiders have given up big leads in their past three matches, but they believe Campese's control and leadership from the outset can stop the worrying trend. Having come back from 16-0 and 16-4 down against the Warriors and Roosters respectively, the Raiders failed to arrest an early 16-6 deficit against the Cowboys on Saturday night.

Canberra coach David Furner is all too aware digging a similar hole against the undefeated Storm would be terminal.

''He'll be fine, Campo's fit and ready to go,'' Furner said. ''We've done it [slow starts] the last few weeks, but we can't afford that against Melbourne. The four teams [Melbourne, Newcastle, Cronulla and Manly] we've got next, we'll get belted if we give them that opportunity.

''We've planned this [for Campese] and we've planned it well.''

Campese has been injected into games late in the first half, with starting five-eighth Josh McCrone shifting to hooker with some success.

Furner was tight-lipped on what his plans are for McCrone and halfback Sam Williams with Campese to play 80 minutes.

Canberra prop David Shillington agreed injecting Campese into the starting line-up could help solve the slow starts which have plagued them in recent weeks. ''There's definitely merit to that, there's no harm in giving it a try and hopefully it will work,'' Shillington said.

''The slow starts are purely because of [poor] on-line defence and errors, but if we had Campo there early he'd definitely control things a lot better.

''His desperation on the line or anywhere on the field is second to none, and there's definitely merit to him helping us out in that department.''

The 28-year-old has been given around 50 minutes in his first two matches, and has sat helplessly on the line as the Raiders have dug an early hole. They simply cannot afford a repeat against undefeated premier Melbourne, who are aided by a nine-day break after the Anzac Day win over the Warriors.

The Raiders are undefeated at home but remain winless on the road, although they have upset the Storm at AAMI Park in the past two years.

Fox Sports commentator and former Queensland five-eighth Ben Ikin said the emotional high the Raiders have ridden since Campese's return was now over.

''Sam Williams and Josh McCrone have had to take charge, and now you're introducing the club captain and one of the better playmakers in the competition into the team,'' he said. ''You can see they get a real confidence kicker when he comes on, but it can also do funny things with your combinations.

''Teams can ride that emotional high the first couple of games when a player like Campo comes back, then it just gets back to footy.''

McCrone is dealing with a change in position and Campese has played just 10 games in two years. But Ikin nominated Williams as the crucial element if the Raiders' new playing formation is to succeed long term.

''I thought Sam Williams was a bit absent on Saturday night, he has to show everybody he's a first grade halfback,'' Ikin said. ''There's no doubting his talent, but he has to be consistent and stay in the game.

''He's the real important piece of this puzzle. If he's the long-term answer at seven, and I'm talking about the rest of the year, he needs to be better than he was on Saturday night.''

SATURDAY

Melbourne Storm v Canberra Raiders at AAMI Park, 5.30pm. TV: Live on Fox Sports 1.

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