Raiders X-Factor: Terry Campese

After the acrimonious departure of halfback Todd Carney in 2008, Terry Campese’s performances left many wondering why the nephew of ‘Campo’ wasn’t running the show all along. <br><br>This year, the Raiders really are his team to lead - but can he handle it when the weight of expectation is hanging heavy?<br><br>A lot has happened in the last 12 months at the Raiders. So much so it’s hard to keep up. Pin up boy and star player Todd Carney was sacked after his umpteenth drunken incident and winger Bronx Goodwin went down with him.<br><br>Then amidst the drama and the darkness a shining light emerged to lead Canberra to fourth place, their best regular season finish since 2003.<br><br>Terry Campese stepped out of the shadows to lead a team who at one stage only had 17 fit players to put on the field. The man who the previous season wasn’t even a regular first grade player became a star who ended up making the Australian World Cup squad.<br><br>It was the year Terry Campese stamped his mark on the NRL, finishing the season first in line-break assists (25), fourth in try assists (25) as well as adding 10 tries and 40 goals.<br><br>2009 will be Campese’s second full year but he isn’t concerned about any added pressure which may be placed on him or the rest of a young Raiders side. In fact he has set some lofty goals for the club and himself.<br><br>“I’m not really feeling any extra pressure just trying to carry on doing what I was doing last season when the boys helped me out a lot by laying a platform.<br><br>“We want to improve on last year. We’re feeling pretty good so to finish higher than 6th would be our goal and if we can do that we’ll be happy.<br><br>“As for me I’ve never really thought about rep footy until this year. Being named in the World Cup squad was a dream come true for me, but if we can get off to a good start and I’m playing well I can’t see a reason why I wouldn’t be a chance for NSW.”<br><br>Those statements say plenty about the Raiders in 09 and their confident young maestro, because despite playing with an injury ravaged squad last season and making the finals they are still being written off as contenders for this season by the media at large.<br><br>Campese though sees the funny side.<br><br>“Normally every pre-season we’re tipped to be wooden spooners, this year we’re only second or third last so I guess we’re starting to get noticed,” he joked.<br><br>Campese knows it won’t be easy. He will have another halves partner this year with a few youngsters throwing their hands up and also knows a fit squad is imperative, although the year hasn’t begun so well in that respect.<br><br>“There are a couple of young guys fighting it out for the halves spot. Josh McCrone, Marc Herbert and Michael Picker are the main contenders but I don’t think we have settled on one just yet<br><br>“I’ll just be happy if we can keep a full team on the park. At one stage the 17 we had on the field were the only 17 who were fit to play. It was a pretty bad injury count. Unfortunately we haven’t started this year too well with two of the front rowers out after the trial against the Bulldogs.”<br><br>With the crowds slowly coming back to Canberra stadium in the latter part of the year Campese has hinted they will see more of the razzle dazzle Raiders in ‘09.<br><br>“We haven’t discussed our game plan yet but throwing it around worked for us last year so I can’t see why we wouldn’t again this year. I think winning and the style we played had the fans coming back.<br><br>“I think we’ve already signed up the most members we have had in a few years. At the end of last year we got the crowds coming back and there was a real buzz around the place. If we can start well and get the crowds out to the ground, even when it’s cold, then it’s going to be a difficult place for other teams to come to.”<br><br>To start well the Raiders need to win away from home against the Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium in what will be a big game for new recruit Stuart Flanagan who returns to face his former club. The team as a whole will also need away wins after going 4-9 on the road last season.<br><br>“It’s a big game for Stuart, but he’s great. He was behind one of the best hookers in the game in Robbie Farah there, so he came here and he gets along with everyone and is looking good.<br><br>If the Raiders are to achieve a finish better than sixth then Campese is going to have to take his game to a new level, but with the tools to do it and his confidence riding high, expect a big year from the Raiders young gun.<br><br>