Canberra's next generation ready to step up
Canberra finished 2011 on a disappointing note, failing to send out the retiring Alan Tongue with finals football and missing out on the finals in the NYC, but with plenty of talented players getting a run in the top grade, 2012 looks like another big year for the Green Machine.
The debuts of young talents such as Josh Papalii, Sam Mataora, Nathan Massey and Sam Williams provided plenty of promise for the Raiders, and with some experienced members of the squad departing, there is a need for more youngsters to jump up and take their chance in 2012.
We take a look at two players who could find themselves in the NRL spotlight in 2012.Michael Chee Kam
A 2010 Australian Schoolboy, Chee Kam has a big future ahead of him. At only 19 he is eligible for the NYC in 2012, but will be looking to push into the first grade squad at some point.
He is equally adept in the centres and the second-row, spending the majority of the 2011 season in the centres before a late season move to the back row.
His leg-speed and go-forward were vital parts of the Raiders’ game while in the forwards, and his ability to break the line on the fringes helped him score six tries in the final four games.
With Danny Galea moving back to Penrith, and Joel Thompson expected to move into the second-row, there may be a chance for Chee Kam to grab a first grade spot either in the centres or on the bench.Matt McIlwrick
A smart dummy-half, McIlwrick spent the 2011 season between hooker and the bench, fighting with Ben Picker for a starting spot throughout the year, before cementing his name on the number nine jersey in the latter stages.
Another of the New Zealand born players in Canberra’s squad, McIlwrick lived with current NRL coach David Furner upon his arrival in Canberra as a 16-year-old, and after playing Junior Kiwis in 2010, is looking to make the next step up to the top grade in 2012.
His speed and guile out of dummy half helped him create countless line-breaks in the NYC competition, but his versatility and solid defence will help him transition into the NRL much easier, with a utility spot on the bench up for grabs after the departure of club legend Alan Tongue.Source: Raiders.com.au