Canberra Raiders and Italy player Paul Vaughan. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
Canberra prop Paul Vaughan believes Raiders teammate Terry Campese was unfairly criticised for withdrawing from Italy's World Cup squad, insisting Campese made an unselfish call by putting the NRL club first.
Italy labelled Campese's decision to withdraw from the World Cup as ''ridiculous'' and accused incoming Canberra coach Ricky Stuart of pressuring him, after the Raiders skipper chose to remain in Canberra and rest his troublesome knees.
Vaughan will play for Italy after he was rewarded for a stellar debut NRL season with Canberra's rookie of the year award.
Vaughan and his grandmother Marina.
Vaughan insisted Campese had been desperate to play for Italy too, before deciding to put Canberra first. ''I don't think there's 100 per cent truth in that story and it looks bad for those blokes, it's a shame it all got put back on Ricky and Campo,'' Vaughan said.
''He was really keen to go and really excited, it's a bit of a shame but he has to do what's in his best interests. It's probably best for him to get his knees right, he'll be better next year for the Raiders, which is his priority.
''We really need him, so it's a good decision at the end of the day.''
Vaughan, 22, qualifies for Italy via his grandmother, Marina, on his mother's side, who migrated to Australia in 1950 and still lives in Canberra. ''She's 90 years old and still really bright. I had lunch with her on Saturday and she's really proud to watch me play for them,'' Vaughan said.
''Nan came over [from Italy] on a boat, it took her 29 days to get here.
''She met my pop in Canberra but went home for a bit, then came back a year later and married him.
''I haven't been to Italy before. After the World Cup I want to do some travelling over there and meet some family.''
Vaughan is one of a number of NRL stars in a strong Italian side, including Anthony and Mark Minichiello, Kade Snowden, Aidan Guerra and James Tedesco. In a pool with Wales and Scotland, Vaughan is confident Italy has the arsenal to push for a quarter-final berth.
''We're not going there for a holiday, we want to play the best we can and give it a good shake,'' Vaughan said.
He also has one eye on avoiding ''second-year syndrome'' at the Raiders and impressing Stuart.
''I was a bit nervous with a new coach. I was happy with my year but you have to start again and impress the new coach,'' he said. ''I'll miss a bit of the pre-season. I'll have to knuckle down when I get home to get my spot back.''
Italy will prepare for its opening World Cup clash against Wales at Millennium Stadium on October 26 with a warm-up game with England this weekend.