Canberra's pain is NRL's gain - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Canberra's pain is NRL's gain

By Steve Jancetic 10/09/2010 11:21:33 AM Comments (0)

Todd Carney has received his dues and so too the Sydney Roosters, but spare a thought for the Canberra Raiders - the club which kick-started rugby league's latest feelgood story.

If not for the Raiders making one of the biggest calls in their 29-year existence, Carney's resurrection - from NRL wild child to Dally M medal winner - would never have been possible.

A little over two years ago, Carney's promising career, and life, were spiralling out of control in the nation's capital.

An alcohol-related rap sheet as busy as the ink which covered his body, Carney was finally shown the door by the Raiders after failing to agree to a five-point rehabilitation plan, which included him swearing off the drink.

Carney queried the plan, at which point the offer was taken off the table - Canberra cutting off all ties to the hottest talent to emerge from the region since a young Laurie Daley broke into first grade.

"Taking away from him something that he loved was something that made him sit back and take a look at things," Raiders chairman John McIntyre said.

"We made a tough decision and then down the track he had to make a tough decision."

While Carney's road to redemption - from being deregistered by the NRL and forced to play park football to his Lazarus-like return to claim the NRL's top individual honour on Tuesday - has been well documented, the role played by Canberra should not be underestimated.

This is a club which struggles to attract top-shelf playing talent, and in Carney they had a bona fide budding superstar who was set to become the foundation piece around which the Raiders could build their side for the next decade.

The first call for the Raiders to sack Carney came in 2007, when Carney - a disqualified driver - was involved in a high-speed car chase with police before taking off on foot to avoid capture.

Knowing the footballing talent Carney had, McIntyre bristled at the suggestions the then-21-year-old be cut, reasoning that if he was to be rehabilitated by a football club it may as well be at the Raiders.

After all, if he was going to get it right, why should a rival club benefit from all the hard work the Raiders had already put in?

A year later, McIntyre knew the relationship could not continue.

"All he needed to do at the time was agree to the five-point plan we had in mind for him," McIntyre said.

"His not doing that at the time left us with little or no alternative.

"The board members and the management staff and coaching staff - they've got kids of their own.

"It goes beyond football - you've got to ignore the football side of it and you talk about what would you do if it was one of your own. Those tough decisions are made if it is one of your own.

"We had a presentation night (on Wednesday) night and the consensus was that everybody's very happy for the guy that he's got his life back in order.

"It was always the view that if he could do that he was a potential superstar in the making."

And so via Atherton in far north Queensland and back to Bondi, the superstar has emerged, so much so that Australian captain Darren Lockyer this week anointed Carney as the man to succeed him in the green and gold No. 6 jumper.

But Carney hasn't forgotten the impact Canberra's tough stance played in his re-emergence in the league.

"It was a good kick in the arse because I lost everything that I had, I lost an opportunity to play for a club that I wanted to play for since I was a kid," Carney said.

"Definitely the time away gave me a different outlook ... you've got to put a lot of hard work into it and I probably slipped up a bit in that area."

Nowadays the only ones slipping up are opposition defences trying their best to corral to Roosters playmaker.

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