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Vetrans impress Matthew Elliot
Canberra coach Matthew Elliott is delighted with the early impact of veteran recruits Jason Smith and Matt Adamson and he's confident they'll prove the sceptics wrong this season.
Elliott believes that the 32-year-olds, who have joined the Raiders after playing in England's Super League competition, will add valuable experience to a Raiders team rebuilding after the loss of stalwarts Mark McLinden, Brad Drew, Ruben Wiki, Joel Monaghan and Luke Davico.
"The only people that have expressed reservations about them are those outside of the organisation," Elliott said.
"If they weren't up for it, we wouldn't have signed them.
"The only people expressing doubts are (the media) ... but we had no reservations at all.
"In terms of their application at practice, their influence on the people around them and the character they bring to the squad, they get a 10 out of 10."
Former Parramatta and Bulldogs utility Smith, who was set to retire after the 2004 English season, says he is looking forward to being a mentor to the young charges at the Raiders.
"I think the main reason (Elliott) got me is to help the younger players along and let them learn off me a bit," Smith said.
"It's not something we've talked about, but as you get older, you take on these responsibilities."
The versatile playmaker, who can slot in at halfback, five-eighth, lock, hooker or the second row, will have first crack at the number six jersey, with Todd Carney and Terry Campese sharing the halfback role with Lincoln Withers.
"The two halves, Campo and Todd Carney are only young and they are both very skilful," said the veteran of 13 Origins for Queensland and 16 Test matches.
"They can pass, kick and run with the ball and it is up to me to help those two along."
Carney, a Junior Kangaroos representative, said that he had struck up a good combination in the halves with Smith in pre-season training.
"He's a pretty good organiser and, because he's an older bloke, he has the respect of the players," Carney said.
"We get on well on the park. He's a good talker, which lets me get on with other roles, like running the ball."
Earmarked as a star of the future by Canberra's hierarchy, Carney has been contracted by the Raiders until 2008, a huge show of faith in an 18-year-old with only a handful of first-grade games to his credit.
Despite his tender age, Carney said he would have no problem calling the shots this season.
"It was hard last year, but now that I know the guys I don't have a problem telling them where to go," Carney said.
"I'm looking forward to being at the club for a long time and it's a chance to be part of the future of the club and a leader."
Elliott said the flexibility of his halves gave him plenty of attacking options.
"I can see ourselves using three halves because of the various qualities they bring," he said.
The Raiders, who squeezed into the finals last year only to be eliminated in the first week by the Roosters, will hope that exciting speedster Craig Frawley will be able to cover for the loss of Joel Monaghan, the Raiders' leading try-scorer for the past two seasons.
"He's a great kid and has a great attitude to practice - I have a heap of time for him," Elliott said.
"But we need everyone to play close to their best every weekend if we are going to be there at the end of the season.
"We have some young players on their way, but we don't have an Andrew Johns who, if he plays well, you'll always be there or thereabouts.
"I just want us to really work hard on the things that we're best at."