Ricky Stuart was quoted in the media last week saying that for the club to rebuild, more short-term pain would probably be required. Ricky was, however, adamant that better times were coming as the club developed, and recruited, the sorts of players needed for the future.
Then, on Friday night, we got a little bit of that promise in the form of powerhouse centre-come-winger, Brenko Lee, and a lot more of the pain. The Raiders played appalingly and a large part of the problem was veteran players not delivering. Chief among them Terry Campese.
Stuart should look at what former teammate Michael Maguire has done at Souths. Maguire has had the courage to drop big name players, including captains, such as Roy Asotasi, Michael Crocker and Matt King. He even dropped Nathan Merrit who was the face of the franchise and the clearest link with the club’s Indigenous heritage. All these changes were made in the name of results and, for the most part, that is exactly what Maguire has delivered.
Or, Stuart could look back twelve months in his own career at the player cleanout he conducted at the Eels in 2013. Eels fans didn’t like it at the time, and most are still reluctant to credit it him for it now, but the Eels are absolutely reaping the rewards of the changes Ricky made in 2013.
Meanwhile, back in Canberra, Stuart is still persisting with Terry Campese’s barely animated corpse (not to mention the other members of the walking dead: Reece Robinson and Brett White).
Large sections of the crowd at Canberra Stadium cheered when Campese came off the field hurt on Friday night. Cheered. This is the club captain and the man who led remarkable runs to the finals in 2008 and 2010. But for Raiders fans who remember those glory days, it is truly excruciating to watch Campese play now.
The problem with great athletes (and, fair enough, if you want to argue whether Campo fits that description or not) is that the very same work ethic and self-belief that got them to the top (and, again, ‘the top’ for Campo may be a relative term) is the thing that compels them to hang on after its gone.
Guys who have been to the pinnacle – and let’s not forget that Campese was rated a genuine Dally M contender at the start of the 2009 season – will always believe that they are just about to turn the corner. That they just need a little bit more time, a little bit more work on the training paddock, and a little bit more luck and they’ll be back in control.
But they won’t. They’ll never get that time back and they’ll never get the luck back either.
For Terry Campese the vision is still there but the defence is always on him just a little too quickly so everything he tries to do unfolds in slow motion.
The scything cross-field run to open holes for his second-rower and centre are now stately plods. One has to feel for poor Joel Edwards – and in previous weeks Jarrad Kennedy – trying to run an outside in line and getting picked off as soon as they get the ball because it takes Campese so long to get there.
That Campese can’t run the ball is now accepted fact. Defences don’t even bother defending the inside line because if Campo does cut back he’s not going anywhere before the scramble gets him. As for Campese’s kicking game, it has so completely abandoned him that Raiders fans are now saying things like: “you know what, that Glen Buttriss has a nice little kicking game.”
As bad as Campese’s attack is, his defence may be even more of a liability. Campese is still a large man and a rugged defender – when the opposition runs directly at him. Sadly most teams have realised that you can go around Campo fairly easily these days. This has led Campese to his current approach of shooting out to try to cut of the attack before it develops. All that this generally achieves is to place more pressure on Jarrod Croker who has only begun to recover from trying to defend next to the human speed bump Sam Williams over the last two years.
Terry Campese is a passionate player who clearly loves the club. He has said it is still his goal to win the premiership with the club. But that is simply not going to happen.
At this point one of two things needs to happen. Either Ricky Stuart needs to find his courage and drop Campese or, if Terry really loves the club, the very best thing he could do for it is to walk the heck away.
Read more of Lachlan’s stuff regularly on The Roar and follow him on twitter @mrsports83
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com