Raiders lock Shaun Fensom celebrates a try against the Titans. Fensom will play his 100th NRL match this weekend.It’s the milestone curse that already boasts Josh McCrone and Glen Buttriss as victims, but the Canberra Raiders are desperate to reverse the rout for a man they believe could be their next captain.
Raiders lock Shaun Fensom will play his 100th NRL match for the club in Melbourne on Saturday and will be hoping to avoid the fate of teammates who have had their party gatecrashed.
Canberra lost 68-4 at home to Melbourne – the biggest loss in club history – in McCrone’s 100th game late last season. In round eight this season – against Manly, when Buttriss brought up his ton – the Raiders trailed 42-0 in the first half en route to a 54-18 hiding.
Raiders skipper Terry Campese believes Fensom has the qualities to one day be his successor.
He also joked Canberra should sideline him from the Storm match, given their horror record in 100th games, as they look for back-to-back wins for the first time this year.
In Fensom’s favour is that Canberra has won its past three matches at AAMI Park, one of the more astounding statistics in the NRL.
“We might have to sit him out a week,” Campese said.
“It’s always good for guys like Fenno to get those milestones. Hopefully we can turn that luck around [in milestone games].”
Asked if he could fill his boots as captain, Campese said: “One hundred per cent. I think you could put him up against [former Raiders skipper] Alan Tongue who does a lot of work for the squad, on and off the field.
“He wouldn’t look out of place if put in that role.”
In-form centre Jarrod Croker echoed those sentiments, rating Fensom one of the most consistent players in the competition.
“He’s definitely got the qualities and attributes [to be captain],” Croker said.
“He’s going to show up for you every week and there’s not too many players in the comp who can do that.”
Fensom is known for extracting every ounce of effort out of himself and Croker hopes his teammates can repay that favour against Storm.
“Fenno deserves a big win on his 100th. He’s already won a couple of Mal Meninga medals,” Croker said.
“Buttsy and Macca didn’t deserve what they got on their 100th games. We’ll go out there and bust it all for Fenno because he does it for us week-in, week-out and deserves a good win.”
Croker was the last Raider to avoid the curse. In fact, his 100th game was a fairytale.
In round eight last year against the Roosters at Canberra Stadium, he scored a late try to level the scores before booting the match-winning conversion.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart pulled a surprise at the selection table on Tuesday by naming back-rower Jarrad Kennedy at right centre to replace the injured Brenko Lee (hamstring).
Kennedy deputised for Lee when he left the field during the second half of Sunday’s win over the Gold Coast and also filled in for Jack Wighton after he broke his thumb against Wests Tigers.
He performed well on both occasions, convincing Stuart to gamble on him ahead of regular outside backs Matt Allwood and Bill Tupou.
Prop Brett White also returns to the starting line-up after he was omitted from the Titans match for tactical reasons.
Despite only playing a couple of under-20s games at centre, Kennedy is confident he is up to the task.
“I’ve played a bit there the last couple of weeks and felt pretty comfortable. It’s more running the right line and what to do in attack more than anything,” he said.
“There’s a bit of space out there and coming up against faster players. It’s just something I need to deal with.”
Croker said Kennedy is similar to former Raiders star Joel Thompson, a back-rower who could slip easily into centre when needed.
“They’ve both got that good leg speed to defend and attack as well. I do see some similarities there,” Croker said.
NRL round 19: Melbourne Storm v Canberra Raiders at AAMI Park, 5.30pm
TV: Live on Fox Sports 1
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