Canberra’s most seasoned front-rower, Brett White, believes that the emergence of an exciting batch of tough and talented young bookends will enable the club to overcome the loss of David Shillington.
Shillington is expected to miss two to four weeks after damaging his rib cartilage in the trial against the Newcastle Knights at Scully Park, Tamworth last Saturday.
Whilst White concedes that the loss of Shillington, who was in line to play his 100th Raiders game in Round 1, will be a loss for the side, he is adamant that the promising young props within the club’s ranks will more than compensate for the loss of the representative front-rower.
“It’s disappointing for Shillo,” said White. “He’s a great player and has proven that over a number of years but we’ve definitely got the depth to cover for him this year.
“We’re in a really good position at the moment where we’ve got a lot of competition for spots. A lot of our younger guys have had really big pre-seasons and have really put their hands up for a spot in the top 17. No doubt a few of those guys will now get an opportunity early on with the absence of Shillo.”
At the forefront of most people’s minds when they think of Canberra’s up and coming front-rower’s is Paul Vaughan - and for good reason!
Vaughan was ultra-impressive in his debut year in 2013, taking out the club’s Rookie of the Year Award and earning representative honours for Italy at the World Cup.
After a fantastic pre-season, White is predicting Vaughan to improve on his form last year, rather than just replicating it.
“Vaughan had a fantastic rookie year last year and it’s really important for him that he follows that up with a big second year now,” said White. “He needs to keep building on his game and I’ve got no doubt that he will.
“He’s got a great attitude and he works really hard so he’s halfway there with those sorts of attributes. It’ll be great for the club to see him build on last year.”
Another two prospects whom are in line to fill Shillington’s void are Mark Nicholls and Shannon Boyd.
Nicholls, the 2012 Rookie of the Year, endured a disappointing 2013 campaign in which his year was limited to just two appearances in the NRL after breaking his arm playing for Mounties, whilst Boyd experienced his first full season of senior rugby league playing in the NSW Cup after graduating from the NYC.
The pair have delivered fantastic pre-seasons and are currently ranked among the fittest forwards at the club.
“Nico has played a few games in first grade now but missed the majority of last year with a broken arm,” White said. “He’s one that’s been really good in the pre-season and obviously the other one is young Shannon Boyd.
“He’s a monster of a kid who naturally has a very big build but he’s trimmed down significantly and is looking the best I’ve seen him.
“He leads the fitness drills every week for the forwards just about so he’s got great fitness now to go with that size. I’d love to see him get his opportunity purely through the hard work and dedication that he’s shown and I’ve got no doubt that he’s not too far off for his first grade debut.”
White credits the coaching staff, particularly Assistant Coach Dean Pay, with enhancing the development of players such as Nicholls and Boyd.
“Dean Pay has been fantastic for the side but particularly the young forwards at the club. He’s one of those blokes that’s a straight shooter and will tell you exactly how it is. He’s easy to communicate with and we all have a great respect for him. He’s been wonderful for the defensive side of our game and that has really showed in our trials particularly through those younger guys.
“It’s a great position to be in with the club only having one major injury and having a lot of talented younger players pushing hard for positions. It’s exciting for me to see these young guys coming through and I can’t wait to get out there and play with them.
“It’s a new year and a very exciting time for the Raiders.”