Raiders captain Alan Tongue believes the future of Canberra Rugby League is strong as the Green Machine unveil yet another young star when they clash with the Cowboys tonight.
Canberra are already reaping the benefits from their reigning champion Toyota Cup side, who are also undefeated in their 2009 campaign.
Justin Carney, Jarrod Croker and Travis Waddell have already shown that they are more than capable of holding their own at the top level and now the latest player to come off the production line is fullback Josh Dugan.
Dugan won the Jack Gibson Medal in last year’s Toyota Cup Grand Final against the Broncos and has forced his way into the side with irresistible form, racking up eight Dally M points from a possible nine, out of the first three rounds of the Toyota Cup competition.
Captain Alan Tongue has seen the young players developing and growing in stature and believes the future for the Green Machine is bright.
“It is very exciting times for Rugby League in Canberra,” he said.
“People have probably questioned the 20s competition and wondered if the boys could step up to play first grade, but I think what we’ve seen at our club and others is that the guys who have stepped up haven’t looked out of place at all.
“It was very pleasing what Waddell produced last week, young Jarrod Crocker continues to impress and it will be exciting to see Josh Dugan get his start this weekend.
“We are not putting much pressure on him, we are not expecting his brilliance that he probably brings week in week out in the Toyota Cup, but he’ll no doubt play some great footy and will continue to build on it throughout the year.”
Not since the golden Raiders era of Mal Meninga, Laurie Daley, Brett Mullins and Ricky Stuart have there been so many talented youngsters emerging on the scene.
Tongue believes that the Toyota Cup competition is helping fast-track the talent.
“There must be something in it,” he said.
“The young kids coming up seem to have a lot more confidence than they did 10 or 15 years ago. If Josh is nervous he hasn’t been showing it at all.
“We have a very similar structure from the 20s right through to first grade, so it is pretty familiar for them when they step up.”
Tongue plays mentor to the next generation of Raiders stars, but is quick to point out the youngsters have all the confidence and talent needed to make it in the big time.
“I get around and talk to them as much as I can during the week and try to take some pressure off them,” he said.
“I think just making them enjoy it, because it is something that sticks out in my mind when I was training with first graders.
“When you play your debut game, it is just a matter of not getting carried away with it, enjoy it and do what you do naturally.”
The balance of the Raiders side is looking the best it has in a long time with the emergence of the young stars coming through and the senior players in career best form.
Terry Campese and Joel Monaghan both realised their outstanding potential last year, driving the Raiders to sixth position, and both earned respective Australian jerseys.
“There was a lot of expectation on Campese and Monaghan when they got back from the World Cup and I think they have taken their games to a new level,” Tongue said.
“They have really delivered for us.
“We have a lot of guys to come back as well like Scott Logan, Troy Thompson and Dane Tilse, guys who have had a lot of experience.
“I have no doubt that once it clicks for us, we can get some momentum and we can start playing some footy like we were last year.