Canberra prop Brett White says Raiders players are all on the same page after a tumultuous 2013 season - on and off the field. Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
Canberra Raiders prop Brett White says there is a new vibe around the club and he is looking forward to a fresh start in 2014 with everyone pulling in the same direction.
Aside from their on-field woes culminating in a 13th-place finish in 2013, Canberra also suffered off the field last season with some widely publicised issues leading to the departures of troubled outside backs Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson.
But Raiders and Ireland prop Brett White told NRL.com that in the week he's been back on club duty he's already noticed a fresh energy around the club.
Asked if everyone seems to be pulling in the same direction with some disruptive influences gone, the 31-year-old responded "that's exactly what I've noticed".
"I've been back this week and what I've noticed is it's been very positive, everyone's putting in 100 per cent and the most important thing is everyone's heading in the same direction."
In addition to some physical changes around the club, including a refurbished gym, the Raiders have made the high profile recruitment of Raiders legend Ricky Stuart as coach from Parramatta and appointed former Australian Institute of Sport director Dr Peter Fricker to conduct a high performance review of the club's football operations.
White says the changes are just what the doctor (the proverbial one, not Fricker) ordered.
"There's been some physical changes around the club as far as the set-up and whatnot, and it's well known about the coaching changes. I think it's exactly what was needed, hopefully there will be some rewards for it for fans of the Raiders."
Despite the fact the Raiders have been one of the quietest clubs on the recruitment front – former Storm forward Lagi Setu is the only major addition – White said there is plenty for fans to be excited about on the personnel front too.
"We're very lucky at the Raiders, we've got some brilliant young kids coming through. Every year it just amazes me, a couple more come into the system, they just keep coming through," he said.
Jarrod Croker and Shaun Fensom are among the former junior stars that are now key members of the senior squad.
"And look at least year – Tony Milford and Paul Vaughan, they've come through the system and I think there'll be a couple more this year," White hinted, singling out Vaughan, a star of the recent World Cup with Italy, for a special mention.
"He had a massive year, his debut year, it was really good. He's a fantastic player and a player of the future, I've no doubt he's going to be a leader of this team in the coming year," White said of the 22-year-old.
"Like some of the Ireland guys I played with, he would have got a heap of experience, been better for the experience and got a lot out of it. Coming back from being around a different team and some of the professionals he would have had in that Italian side, he's learned a lot and come back better for it."
Fans can also expect big things from 122kg, 194cm, 21-year-old prop Shannon Boyd, according to White.
"He's a big boy; he's been in the first-grade system for 12 months and trained at that level. Fitness-wise he's right up the front of the forwards. He's been stripping down a fair bit which he probably needed to, he was playing at 124 kilos or something like that but he's looking good so hopefully he gets a chance this year and we'll have to see how he goes."
Coming off the World Cup, which included a game against Fiji White rated as one of the most physical he'd ever played in, the prop said the body was fine aside from a recent arthroscope on this knee.
"I needed an arthroscope before I went over so I knew coming home I'd get that done, so I got that done and took a bit of time off to freshen up," he said. "I've just starting to get back into the rehab now and after Christmas I'll start running again and get back to where I need to be."
He added that the arthroscope was not on the knee in which ruptured an ACL in early 2012.