David Shillington Photo: Karleen Minney
EVERY so-called 'expert' would have written us off as soon as our captain Terry Campese was carried off Suncorp Stadium a fortnight ago.
But I feel myself and the club's other senior players are much better prepared to fill the leadership void left by Campo for the rest of the season. Last year I took over the captaincy for a few weeks when Alan Tongue was out with injury, and the job was foreign territory for me.
I liked the idea of being captain and looked forward to the opportunity, but I wasn't as prepared as I could have been, and that's understandable.
I feel I'm in a lot better position this year to be captain, and part of that is making sure we're maintaining focus and drive so we can prove we're still a good team without Campo.
The Raiders leadership group has made a real point of stepping up our involvement and influence over the younger players this year.
We're not there to decide on team apparel or travel arrangements, we're there to create and drive the culture within the club.
Last year when we were doing that we saw ourselves as watchdogs over the younger players, and that was just wrong.
This year it's been more using ourselves for positive things, like making sure we're turned on at training and if we're not switched on, do something about it.
It's good to have that purpose and define the role we have in the club as older players.
The last 12 months the leadership group's really ramped it up a bit, working to promote professionalism, winning culture and right attitude around the place.
We meet regularly with our leadership coach Sam Patterson, and I always look forward to those meetings.
One of the great things about going into the representative camps is watching the professionalism of players.
I've picked up heaps over the years, and it's something I try and promote back at the club too.
Tonguey was a bit of a one man band at the Raiders for a long time, and it's good we've got a really good group of senior players now that are driving the right culture around the place.
Last week's bye will prove very helpful to the team, not only to rest a few injuries but also to give young halfback Sam Williams extra time to settle back into his role.
It's hard to replace Campo, as his on-field leadership and game breaking ability is invaluable.
Sammy got thrown into the deep end last year to cover injuries to Campo and Matt Orford and did a fantastic job and I know the whole team has confidence in him to direct us around again.
It's been well documented we've decided to give alcohol a miss for a few weeks.
By abstaining from alcohol together as team, it highlights that we're just trying to tick all the boxes and make sure we're doing whatever it takes to win consistently.
From week to week there is only ever a handful of players that like to go out for a beer after a game and I know everyone supports the small sacrifice.
David Shillington plays prop for the Canberra Raiders