Terry Campese remains committed to the Canberra Raiders. Photo: Jay Cronan SportRaiders player Terry Campese after the game against the Canterbury Bulldogs The Canberra Times20 June 2014Photo Jay Cronan Photo: Jay Cronan
Raiders skipper Terry Campese says he’s not too proud to play reserve grade, but the 30-year-old has vowed to fight on for his NRL career with “100 per cent commitment” in Canberra next year.
Campese also denied there’d been any conflict with Raiders administration or coach Ricky Stuart after the club rejected a mid-season request for him to join English Super League club Hull FC on a potential three-year deal.
Campese’s form has been under intense scrutiny for the struggling Raiders this season, the former Australian Test representative now under pressure to retain his captaincy and his spot in Canberra’s NRL squad.
But Campese said he would not contemplate retirement and reaffirmed his commitment to see out the final year of his deal in Canberra in 2015.
“Whenever I go out there, I go out to play to the best of my ability, it’s the club I love,” Campese said. “I’m signed here until the end of next year and that’s what I figure on doing.”
“I’d like to think I can still contribute in the NRL, that’s my personal challenge. But no matter [which grade] I play next year, I’ll be giving 100 per cent.”
Campese admitted his manager, Jim Banaghan, had negotiated with the Raiders about a potential release from the final year of his contract to accept an offer to play with Hull FC in the UK Super League.
It’s understood the Raiders blocked the move after it was confirmed star backline utility Anthony Milford would be joining Brisbane next season and Tigers fullback James Tedesco reneged on a deal to join the Raiders. In addition, Banaghan and the Raiders could not agree on a payout for Campese, given he was still contracted at Canberra until the end of 2015.
Banaghan has recently been in England but Hull FC has signed other recruits, closing the door on Campese’s options overseas.
“Hull approached me out of nowhere,” Campese said. “I was sitting at home and got a phone call one night from [Hull football manager] Motu Tony saying they were after a half. I left it with my manager, I didn’t even know the money that was being discussed. It was all done-and-dusted in a week, and after that I just moved on. My commitment to the Raiders has never changed.”
Campese admitted his form had been patchy this season, declaring he was prepared to play on in NSW Cup for Raiders’ feeder-team Mounties next season. But Campese refused to give up on his NRL ambitions.
Campese has suffered three season-ending injuries since 2010, when he signed a five-year contract extension with the club. It has restricted him to 44 NRL games in the past four seasons.
But Campese said he was used to adversity. He debuted for the Raiders as a teenager in 2004, but played only 21 NRL games in his first four seasons as he waited patiently for opportunity.
“If my form warrants it and it’s the best thing for the squad, 100 per cent I’m prepared to play NSW Cup [next year],” Campese said. “If I have to go to NSW Cup to be a better footballer or to work on things, there’s no reason why I can’t. I’m not going to chuck a hissy fit and not play football.
“I’m there for the best interests of the team and players and if that’s what’s best for the team, I’ll be a team man and fight hard to try and get back in the squad.
“I’ve dug my way back before, hopefully I can do it again.”
The Raiders face the very real prospect of collecting the wooden spoon, their first since their inaugural season in 1982.
Campese has previously described finishing last as his “worst nightmare”. But he insisted the club’s harmony, under Stuart’s coaching, had never been stronger in his time at the Raiders.
“Honestly, everything’s good,” Campese said. “I’ve said it many times before, it’s one of the best feelings I’ve seen at the club. The only drama is that we’re not winning games of football. If we were winning games, it couldn’t be better. There’s good camaraderie, the coaching staff’s been excellent, if we’d won those handful of games we should have it’d be a different outlook.”
Campese has held the Raiders captaincy since 2012. Currently out with an abdominal injury, he said his focus was on a return to the field rather than the prospect of losing that position.
“Getting named captain a few years ago was a highlight of my career and something I’ve always taken seriously,” Campese said.
“Maybe it brings a bit of extra pressure when you’re captain and I’ve been struggling with form. There’s expectations to be the best player on the park every week.
“I’ve copped most of the criticism, which is fine by me, I’d rather it be on me than any of my teammates.”
“I’d admit my running game hasn’t been as good as I’d like … I can’t put my finger on it, normally you do things on instinct. You go into games with goals, as a play-maker you’re always thinking about setting people up, I’ve got [Jarrod Croker] outside me leading the try-scorers so I’m trying to get him as much early ball as possible.”
Campese has not ruled out potentially finisihing his career in the UK Super League, but said he couldn’t see himself playing for a rival NRL club.
“Honestly I don’t know, I don’t think I could,” he said of joining another NRL team..
“I always thought [playing in England] would be something to do at the end of my career. I’ve heard good reports from people who’ve gone over there. The competition’s still very strong, but it’s a bit slower, and I’ve got some great mates there too.”
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