Whilst it is clear that Terry Campese will be wearing the number six jersey in 2014, Coach Ricky Stuart is fortunate to have several capable players that are able to step up and fill the void if the Raiders Captain is to succumb to injury.
If there is one certainty to the Raiders line-up for 2014 it is that Terry Campese will be the five-eighth and captain of the side.
Campese, perhaps more than any other player, is vital to the Green Machine’s success in 2014. The former Test pivot’s worth to the Raiders is best illustrated when he is not on the field.
The Raiders are a different side when Campese is dictating play. He provides Canberra with direction, creativity and authority – when Campese talks, his team mates listen.
After missing almost two entire seasons with chronic knee injuries, Campese registered 17 games in 2013 and reminded Raiders fans of his great worth to the side.
Now, after going through his first full pre-season in a number of years, Campese has revealed that he is in the best shape he has been in for quite some time, which is an ominous sign for opposition sides.
The prodigious talents of Jack Wighton were honed by playing at five-eighth and centre as a junior and although he is heavily favoured to line-up in the centres for the Raiders in 2014, Coach Ricky Stuart has eluded that the Orange CYMS junior may in fact wear the number six jersey at some stage this season.
“At some stage I'm looking at Jack playing five-eighth, he reminds me of a Laurie Daley-style player, he's a running six,” Stuart said. “The more times he gets the football in his hands, the better football team we're going to have. I see players like Jack Wighton as the future of the club.”
Wighton last played five-eighth on a consistent basis in the NYC where he was able to showcase his brilliant array of skills and menacing defence week in, week out.
Whilst Wighton’s creativity, running game and defence are unquestioned, the one question revolves around his kicking game. Although he hasn’t kicked frequently during his short NRL career, rest assured that Wighton does not have a problem striking the Steeden. As evidenced out on the training paddock, Wighton kicks the ball extremely well.
Whilst McCrone is heavily tipped to make the permanent shift to hooker in 2014 his proven ability in the halves provides Ricky Stuart with a safety net if injury is to unfortunately strike down Campese.
When Campese suffered season ending injuries in 2011 and 2012, McCrone shifted from halfback to five-eighth to accommodate his loss and did a marvellous job at directing the Raiders around the paddock.
McCrone’s speed and creativity will no doubt bring a new element to the Raiders play from the dummy half role in 2014 however if Campese is unavailable to play, McCrone’s experience and playmaking talent will help to nullify his loss in the halves.
Another option for Stuart if Campese is unavailable is 2014 is last year’s Meninga Medallist, Anthony Milford.
Although Milford is aiming to play fullback in 2014, the 19 year old grew up playing in the halves and was impressive when partnering either Campese or McCrone last year.
Milford’s individual brilliance would be complimented well by the steadying influence of a Campese or McCrone alongside him but the player that most makes him a candidate for a spot in the halves this year is Reece Robinson.
Robinson has proven his brilliance at fullback in previous years gone by and if Stuart is to make the most of both players attacking brilliance then Milford may find his way into the halves in 2014.
If Campese is unavailable, Stuart may also be tempted to reunite Milford with his NYC halves partner Mitch Cornish, a combination that was extremely successful in the Under 20s.