Raiders lock Shaun Fensom will take on the Sharks today. Photo: ROHAN THOMSON
THE Canberra Raiders are set to elevate lock Shaun Fensom into their senior leadership group in coming weeks, recognition of his importance to the club and that he is future captaincy material.
Fensom (bicep) and fullback Josh Dugan (shoulder) have both proved their fitness and will return for the Raiders against the Sharks at Canberra Stadium today, welcome news for a team that has lost two of its most senior players to season-ending injuries.
Australian prop David Shillington will lead the Raiders from today, with captain Terry Campese and vice-captain Brett White both suffering season-ending knee injuries.
Raiders fullback Josh Dugan during training at Canberra Stadium. Photo: ROHAN THOMSON
Former Kiwi international Bronson Harrison has also been ruled out of today's match with an ankle injury, robbing the Raiders of another player in their leadership group.
Canberra's senior ranks could get even thinner if players like Shillington and Tom Learoyd-Lahrs are called up for Origin duty.
Fensom is only 23, but coach David Furner is looking to give the workaholic lock more responsibility in leading the Raiders.
Fensom captained the Raiders to the inaugural Toyota Cup Under 20s title and, after just 45 NRL games, is already considered a future captain.
Canberra's Player of the Year in 2011, Fensom said he would welcome any extra responsibility thrust on him.
''I'm more than happy to take that sort of stuff on,'' Fensom said. ''I came up through the Toyota Cup with responsibilities like that.
''It'd be awesome and a great honour to be the captain of the club one day.''
Former Raiders premiership-winning lock Brad Clyde gave Fensom a huge compliment during the week, comparing him to a young Paul Gallen.
Former Raiders skipper Alan Tongue said Fensom had natural leadership ability.
''He's a man of action,'' Tongue said. ''That tough, gritty stuff he does on a weekly basis is why people who play alongside him hold him in such regard.
''Just that unselfishness and the way he goes about his work.
''It's great that he wants to have that [the captaincy] down the track.''
The return of Fensom and Dugan is a timely boost for the inconsistent Raiders (3-4) as they hope to end the Sharks' five-match winning streak.
Both players have missed four games since suffering their injuries during Canberra's round three loss to the Sydney Roosters, Fensom tearing his bicep and Dugan sustaining a grade-three tear to his AC shoulder joint.
Dugan wasn't named on Tuesday, but completed training yesterday and has been cleared to play against the Sharks.
Harrison has not recovered from the ankle injury he sustained in Canberra's last game against the Brisbane Broncos and will be replaced in the second row by Joel Thompson. That will enable Joe Picker to move on to the bench.
The Raiders need to prove they can be finals contenders without two of their most experienced campaigners.
Halfback Sam Williams will play his first game of the season for the Raiders while hooker Matt McIlwrick will make his first-grade debut off the bench.