Utility forward Matt McIlwrick has revealed that the absence of club stalwart and renowned workhorse Shaun Fensom is inspiring him to push himself further on the field.
Fensom ruptured the ACL in his right knee in the loss to the South Sydney Rabbitohs in Round 22 and will be a sorely missed absence from the Raiders line-up for the remainder of the year.
However Fensom’s adversity comes with a silver lining for McIlwrick and as a deserved reward for his impressive form in the VB NSW Cup with the fifth placed Mounties, he was selected at lock for the clash with the Parramatta Eels last weekend.
“It was awesome to get a chance last week against the Eels and I really enjoyed the opportunity to start the match at lock,” the former Junior Kiwi representative said.
“They’re big boots to fill in because Fenno’s got a massive workload and we probably need two blokes to cover his position but I enjoyed the challenge and I’m trying to make the most of it.
“Knowing how much work Fenno does in attack and defence is making me want to work harder and try and cover the work he does week in week out for the side.”
McIlwrick said his Coach Ricky Stuart has asked him to bring energy and toughness to the role he’s been given and make sure he gets his hands dirty and works hard for the team.
“Ricky wants me to bring lots of energy and use my fitness to get the team going forward,” he said.
“He’s talked to me about last weekend and that it was a good chance to start the game and lift the boys and he wants the same this week.”
All the hype in the lead up to tomorrow’s match has surrounded the return of Josh Dugan to Canberra and the form of star pivot Benji Marshall, but McIlwrick said his focus is solely on stopping the Dragons in the middle of the park.
“We’ve got to stop their go forward first before they have the chance to get it out wide and we’re preparing for that,” he said.
“They’ve got some great go forward in their pack with the likes of Trent Merrin and Jack De Belin and we need to make sure we are at our best in the middle.”
McIlwrick said the Raiders will also need to keep an eye on former Team mate Joel Thompson and said he’ll bring his usual brand of no nonsense footy to the game.
“He’s a goer and he’s going to come out 100 mile an hour and play his best,” he said.
“He’s a great player and plays the game hard and he’ll be a danger for us.”