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Vastly experienced prop Brett White has singled out Raiders backline players Reece Robinson and Jack Wighton for massive praise in the lead-up to Canberra’s clash with the Titans at Skilled Park on Sunday afternoon, describing them both as “potential superstars of the NRL”.
White, who will make his NRL comeback from a knee reconstruction off the bench for the Raiders, believes it is only a matter of time before fans see Robinson and Wighton make a big impact on a regular basis.
Robinson will assume fullback duties from sacked star Josh Dugan, while Wighton, who played on the wing in Canberra's first-round win over Penrith, shifts to centre after Blake Ferguson was stood down indefinitely as a disciplinary measure. Ferguson has since been slapped with a suspended $10,000 fine, but will continue at the club.
White confidently predicted the Raiders would lose nothing with the changes to the side against the Titans.
“We all know here what Reece can do, and anyone else only had to see the All Stars game last month, when he scored three tries for the Indigenous side,” White told NRL.com. “And we’ve got absolutely no concerns about Jack filling the other spot.
“Reece has already played a reasonable amount of first grade, but from here it’s about him becoming exposed a bit more to a key position. It would have been hard for him to have to play second string, and all the boys are really excited for him to get the chance on Sunday.
“He’s been unreal for us. He works hard, and goes about his business without any complaints.
“Jack could play anywhere in the backline and be successful. He’s quite a big kid now, but he’s going to fill out more and become even stronger. I don’t like to put pressure on the kid, but I reckon he’s going to become a superstar. I reckon he and Reece are both potential superstars of the NRL.
“I've seen a lot of good young kids come through in rugby league, and Jack is right up with the best of them.”
Robinson, 25, has shown signs of brilliance since making his first-grade debut for Brisbane in 2008, but this promises to be his biggest year. Last season he scored 16 tries – sixth most in the league – as well as making 15 line-breaks. Wighton, who made his first-grade debut for Canberra last season and turned 20 last month, is a bona fide excitement machine; in just nine outings in 2012 he managed to puncture opposition defences on six occasions.
White is entitled to be a very good judge. The 31-year-old has played 155 first-grade games for Melbourne and Canberra, plus eight State of Origin games for NSW and three Tests. He doesn’t make big predictions about young players at the drop of a hat.
But while White is excited about the potential of the young players emerging at the Raiders, he is also thrilled to be resuming after playing just five games last season before a torn anterior cruciate ligament put him out.
“Mentally, I feel great,” White said. “Physically, I’m not going to hit top form straight away, but I feel I’m right to start playing first grade and building up my game time each week.
“I played in both of our pre-season trials – about 15 minutes in the first one and 30 in the second. And I had a run for Mounties in the NSW Cup last weekend. I played about 50 minutes there, which I really enjoyed as something different. I hadn’t gone back to NSW Cup for five or six years.
“My recovery and rehabilitation after I did my knee has all gone according to plan. I did it in Round 5, so we knew from the start I wasn't going to get back last season and that gave me a bit of time to get the healing process right.
“The weird thing was that I had a few hamstring problems during the pre-season. I'm not the fastest bloke around, so I was hardly expecting that! But everything's OK now, and I'm just looking forward to playing against the Titans.”
White said he didn't know at this stage how he would be used on Sunday.
“I haven't spoken to ‘Furnsey’ (coach David Furner) about it yet,” he said. “I'm sure he'll let me know closer to the game.”