During the pre-season NRL.com sat down with hard working Canberra lock Shaun Fensom to discuss life as an NRL Fantasy gun, his representative snubbing and becoming a part of the squad's leadership group.
NRL.com: You've been one of the most popular players in the NRL Fantasy competition for a few years now – is that something that gets spoken about among the players at all?
Fensom: A couple of boys do talk about it here at training but it's mainly off the field that you get all the enquiries: people asking if you're under an injury cloud or if you're going to be in or out. If you have made a good score for them the they will come up and say "you killed it in my dream team on the weekend!" which is a pretty good feeling. It's nice that you're doing someone a favour.
Is it a point of pride to have those stats, the high tackle count every week?
Not really you know, it's just a position that suits me, I've tried to establish a role there doing that. I don't go out there thinking in the back of my head I'm going to make 40, 50, 60 tackles you know, it just happens. It might be positional play, where I put myself, but I don't mind it, I like doing it, I'd probably get a bit bored if I was out there not doing as much.
I believe it was 75 tackles in a game once?
Yeah that was against the Bulldogs. [It was against the Bulldogs at Canberra Stadium in Round 11, 2011, and equalled the record for an 80-minute game set by Nathan Hindmarsh.] But after the game it just felt like a normal game, it felt like another standard game, I wasn't out there thinking "geez I'm making a lot of tackles here" – doing that much work you're not thinking about what you're doing, you're just making sure you do the little things right and making sure the quality's there.
So it's just the way that particular game panned out?
Yeah that's exactly right, if you're not completing your sets or what not it's always going to be different stats, when I'm out there I'm not thinking about that, I'm just making sure if I am in a tackle I'm still doing the little things right – trying to slow it down even though the refs pick on me! It's all relative though, because I am in the ruck so much that [getting penalised] is going to happen.
You've taken on more of a leadership role here in recent years?
Yeah I moved down here in 2006 straight out of school. The last few years I've been in the top grade and now I'm in the leadership group too, the 'Group 82', which is a big honour to know that your peers respect you and have voted you in that group.
What exactly does that involve?
We want everyone to be a leader, we don't just want the four blokes in there [Fensom, Josh McCrone, Terry Campese and Brett White] to be leaders, we want everyone to communicate and talk up and that sort of thing. It's just communication, in between the coach and the players – the coach will come to us, or if something's going on with the players they can come to us and we can relay it to the coach, help to guide the young fellas through and help them make the right choices.
You seem like your game would be suited to representative football – is it frustrating not to have got a look in so far?
Last year I had a go at trying to make Country Origin. That wasn't to be, but that will be my goal again at the start of this season. I'll try and play as consistently and as well as I can for the Raiders here and hopefully one of those jerseys might flow on from there but if not then I'm still going to concentrate on playing the best footy I can for the Raiders here.
Do your think your defence-focused style of play counts against you?
Not really, but I'm not going to go out there and change my style of play, I'm going to play the way that's strongest suited to my style. I think that's the style that best suits me and if that doesn't get me there then so be it, I'll just continue playing the best I can for the Raiders.
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