Campese’s Canberra farewell

TERRY CAMPESE: Former Canberra Raiders captain Terry Campese is set for a Canberra Stadium farewell when he plays for Italy in the World Cup. Photo: Jay Cronan.
TERRY CAMPESE: Former Canberra Raiders captain Terry Campese is set for a Canberra Stadium farewell when he plays for Italy in the World Cup. Photo: Jay Cronan.

Terry Campese’s Canberra Raiders career didn’t end how he planned it.

Forced to battle back from three season-ending injuries, a demotion to reserve grade and an early departure to England denied the former Raiders skipper a proper farewell in front of his home fans.

But now the 32-year-old is gearing up for a Canberra Stadium farewell in what might be his “last ever game”.

Campese has returned home to coach his junior club the Queanbeyan Blues in the Canberra Raiders Cup following a Super League stint at Hull KR.

It might not be the only blue jersey he wears this year with a World Cup berth for Italy on the horizon.

Italy will play Fiji on November 10 in the last of three World Cup games at Canberra Stadium, following France’s clashes with Australia and Lebanon.

The 32-year-old masterminded Italy’s charge to the third-and-final European qualifying spot for the World Cup, in what could be his second World Cup appearance after he represented Australia in 2008.

“That’s the biggest drawcard, or one of the bonuses of playing in the World Cup, that we get to play in Canberra,” Campese said.

“Obviously I didn’t get a chance to play in front of the home fans before I took off to England as I was playing in the Mounties.

“It would be good to get out there and hopefully get some support as well. It would be nice to obviously get to play in front of the family and thank them for everything they’ve done for me.

“Depending on how I go this year with the Blues and stuff it might be my last ever game.

“That’s a pretty special way to go out I think so it’s something that I’m looking forward to. [I’ve got to] play well for the Blues first and go from there.”

Playing at home would be the perfect way to sign off for Campese, who has a long and storied history on the Canberra Stadium turf.

“It’s probably not the best of memories, but when I did my ACL for the first time was in a home semi-final against the Tigers,” Campese said.

“It was sold-out, and I can remember lining up for a couple of hours that week a couple of times actually, in the city and at the university buying tickets for my family and stuff like that.

“The buzz around town was probably what it was like last year for the Raiders to be honest. It was just a special year for myself and just unfortunate that I ended up with an injury.”

But with the bad memories came plenty of good ones, like when Campese racked up 36 points against the Penrith Panthers on a chilly Canberra afternoon in 2011.

He gave up the last conversion to Marc Herbert, which would have seen Campese equal club legend Mal Meninga’s record of most points in a game for Canberra - but “it’s all good”.

“You don’t always score 36 points in a game, that’s one of the ones that I’ll always remember as well,” Campese said.

Plenty of Raiders players are expected to be on hand during the tournament, with skipper Jarrod Croker and Joey Leilua tipped to feature for Australia.

The centre pairing could join the likes of Shannon Boyd, Josh Papalii and Junior Paulo for the Kangaroos, where they would face England’s Josh Hodgson and Elliott Whitehead in the pool stages.

New Zealand incumbents Jordan Rapana and Joe Tapine could lock horns with Sia Soliola, who is keen to represent Samoa despite being eligible for the Kiwis.

A host of representative players is a by-product of success, and Campese expects the Green Machine to figure in the business end of the season for a second straight year.

“I think their top 20 players are probably the best in the comp, so if they stay injury-free I’m sure that they’ll give it a real crack,” Campese said.