Unwanted Shaun Berrigan heads for finals

BACK IN TOWN: Former Warriors' utlilty returns to Auckland with his new club the Canberra Raiders this weekend.
BACK IN TOWN: Former Warriors' utlilty returns to Auckland with his new club the Canberra Raiders this weekend.

Shaun Berrigan masked any anger at his rejection by the New Zealand Warriors midway through last season and remained the consummate professional when refusing to revel in his former club's demise as finals football looms with the Canberra Raiders.

The 33-year-old never publicly bore a grudge when told by Warriors management he would not be required in 2012 - the former Kangaroos, Queensland and Brisbane Broncos utility had played long enough to realise he was a stop-gap measure at Mt Smart.

By the time chief executive Wayne Scurrah had conveyed the news Nathan Friend had already been signed as the first choice hooker while rookies Pita Godinet and Alehana Mara were designated back-up for the former Gold Coast dummy half.

In the centres Berrigan was also rated behind Jerome Ropati and the enigmatic Krisnan Inu; Lewis Brown and Simon Mannering also had backline experience while much was expected from debutants-in-waiting Konrad Hurrell and Ben Henry from round one.

In hindsight the Warriors possibly regret cutting loose a utility with two premiership rings, 15 State of Origins and 14 tests on his CV, particularly as Ropati has been sidelined since round 10, Friend suffered a broken jaw at a critical stage of the campaign and Inu was exiled to the Bulldogs.

Hurrell enjoyed a meteoric rise with 12 tries in as many games before a form slump prompted demotion to reserve grade.

Berrigan made 19 appearances in his only season at the Warriors - a game shy of the figure he required to automatically earn another one-year deal - and was an injured bystander as the club advanced to their second Grand Final last October.

And now, almost a year on from the Warriors loss to Manly, Berrigan is on the brink of another post-season at the Raiders - a club that found itself in Warriors-like strife until they embarked on a four-match winning streak that has spared head coach David Furner from the predicament facing Brian McClennan.

Six weeks ago Furner was reportedly on the verge of being replaced by Raiders legend Ricky Stuart, the former New South Wales coach who instead opted for the top job at Parramatta as Stephen Kearney's successor.

But as September looms Furner arrives in Auckland today knowing a place in the top eight could be guaranteed before Sunday's kick-off.

Josh Dugan, David Shillington, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Brett White and injury-cursed five-eighth Terry Campese are the Raiders' household names in the Australian capital although Berrigan's contribution should not be underestimated.

Berrigan has already reached the 20-match threshold - generally from the interchange bench so the 225-game veteran has confined Christchurch-born utility Matt McIlwrick to the NSW Cup apart from when he was injured.

He has been named on the bench against the Warriors but will start in the halves if Sam Williams is ruled out tomorrow with a shoulder injury suffered during last Friday's 34-6 thrashing of the front-running Bulldogs.

Fairfax Media