Rugby League


Terry Campese right to go despite lack of trial matches

CANBERRA Raiders skipper Terry Campese is adamant he is not in danger of being underdone for round one, declaring himself 100 per cent fit.

Campese said it was his decision to withdraw from the final trial against Newcastle in Tamworth on Saturday night.

He said he has no injury issues before Canberra's clash with North Queensland in a fortnight, and harbours no concerns he will not be prepared despite not playing a pre-season match.

The 29-year-old is in arguably the best shape of his career after his first full pre-season since 2010, when he suffered the first of two serious knee injuries.

''We spoke about it early in the week and it was my call,'' Campese said. ''I thought with everything I've done so far I'm ready to go, and it's also good to get the younger kids a run before the competition starts.

''I didn't think I needed to play, and that's the way we decided to go.''


Campese admitted a number of injuries to high-profile players at last week's Auckland Nines also helped sway his decision to stay at home.

Newcastle playmaker Jarrod Mullen (hamstring) is expected to miss half the season, while North Queensland fullback Lachlan Coote also suffered a season-ending knee injury.

''I'd only be playing half the trial anyway, and also the injuries that came out of the Nines was one of the other things,'' he said. ''The last thing you want is to have a big pre-season and do a little injury in a trial match.''

Youngsters Jack Wighton, Mitch Cornish and Jack Ahearn all auditioned to be Campese's new halves partner against Newcastle.

After several seasons alongside Josh McCrone, Campese said the new halves combination can still click immediately in round one. ''I think we do enough at training to prepare for a game,'' he said.

''It's just going to be a little bit of timing, but over the next two weeks we'll definitely get that.''

Ahearn is considered the outsider in the halves race, but Campese warned not to discount him after impressive displays at the Nines and a trial win in Melbourne.

''He's gone under the radar. Everyone's talking about Jack [Wighton] and Mitch, but there's no reason Jack Ahearn can't play first grade,'' he said.

Who coach Ricky Stuart settles on will decide whether Campese switches to the right side as expected, as Wighton and Cornish are both left-foot kickers.

''I guess if it's either Mitch or Jack [Wighton], yes [I'd switch]. If it's Jack Ahearn, no,'' Campese said.

''It's exciting either way. If I'm on the right I'll be with Papa [Josh Papalii], or on the left with Crokes [Jarrod Croker] and Edrick Lee.

Campese joked he had already anointed Papalii his minder should be move to the right edge.

''I've already worded him up; he's my bodyguard,'' Campese laughed. ''I'm calling him Kevin Costner.''