Judging by how hard Canberra have been tackling pre-season training, it seems it’s not just the fans who felt they were dudded in 2011.
Coach David Furner says his Raiders squad are desperate for the season to begin so they can put their miserable 2011 behind them, highlighted by injuries to vital players Terry Campese, Josh Dugan and reputed saviour Matt Orford.
Campese’s battle to make it on the park in many ways personified the Raiders’ luckless year.
After recovering from a knee reconstruction, the one-time Test player lasted just eight minutes into his comeback in round 13 before suffering a groin tear that would rule him out for the remainder of the year.
Those at the Raiders might not like to admit it, but just having Campese back on the field and running around unencumbered is likely to raise their finals hopes considerably.
Furner, who enters his fourth year as Raiders coach, said his squad has always had the potential to make the finals, but injuries took their toll.
“Did we miss Campese?,” he asks.
“You’ve only got to look at 2010 to see the type of role he plays within this side.
“My main goal this season is getting the potential out of this team and back on track to what they’re capable of.”
The sting of 2011 is still strong, providing fuel to the fire for this season.
“If we dwell on last year we’re wasting our time, but just seeing the way the players are focusing during the pre-season is pretty exciting,” Furner said.
“We’ve had very physical opposed sessions.
“Internally we’ve set our goals high.”
It’s also been a stellar couple of months off the field for the Raiders, who managed to sign a major sponsor and are on the verge of securing Dugan’s services for another two years for what is reportedly a $1.3 million deal.
The All Stars representative and emerging Blue only played a handful of games last year, while star recruit Matt Orford’s disastrous injury record was also blamed for the Raiders finishing second last.
Furner obviously backs the potential of his team given he did limited tweaking in the off months, with veteran utility Shaun Berrigan the only major recruit.
Given their injury record, his versatility was no doubt a trait that won Canberra over.
“We needed a little bit more experience in the outside backs and with Shaun coming to the Raiders, he’ll add that.
“He can also play in a number of positions which is handy – we didn’t have that last year.”
While Campese will help lead the team in 2012, Furner said he’s also looking to his young guns – and representative hopefuls – to lead the team to glory, such as Dugan, Joel Croker, Joel Thompson, Shaun Fensom and Travis Waddell.
“It’s important to note that they were in our premiership team in the under 20s (in 2008) so they’re the guys that will be there to impress the club,” Furner said.
Furner has yet to name a captain this season, but Campese is one of the front-runners.