Since joining the Canberra Raiders before the 2016 NRL season, Elliott Whitehead has effectively selected himself in the number 12 jersey every week.
A testament to his resilience and reliability, he’s played in 123 out of a possible 125 games for the Raiders during his tenure, missing only two matches since his club debut against Penrith just over five years ago.
On numerous occasions now Raiders head coach Ricky Stuart has said “Elliott Whitehead is the most underrated footballer in the NRL”.
“I don’t like talking about myself,” Whitehead smiled modestly when asked about his consistency.
“I just focus on enjoying what I love to do and, at the moment, it’s working; I haven’t missed many games while I’ve been here so I’m doing something right.”
A walk up start in the back row for both the Raiders and his motherland England, Whitehead’s skilful ballplaying capacity has seen him competently fill in as a stop gap half when required.
“I’m lucky I play in the spot that I love as a job, so I take it with both open arms and turn up week in week out.
“You never know when it’s going to be your last game, so I enjoy it while I can and that’s my main thing.”
While a lot has been made of Canberra’s impressive squad depth in the middle forwards, Whitehead is by far the Green Machine’s most senior and decorated back rower following the departure of John Bateman at the end of last year.
Having worked extensively with the club’s back row stocks over the summer he backed Hudson Young to fill the void left by Whitehead’s countryman, John Bateman.
“I’ve been doing a lot of work with Hudson and I think he’ll fit into that role really well,” he said.
“He’s played a lot in the middle and isn’t really used to being on the edge and defending your edge and check releasing, so we’ve been doing a lot of work on that and the positional plays as well.”
Despite the fanfare surrounding the Raiders’ class and depth ahead of the 2021 NRL season, Whitehead said the squad isn’t getting ahead of itself.
“It’s a long road to get there and we know it’s going to take a lot of work,” he said.
“We’ll be looking to get off to a good start and get a few wins and have a nice position come mid-season.
“But I believe with the squad and the depth that we have; I can’t see why we can’t go all the way this year.”
Whitehead said he enjoys the laidback nature of Canberra, and contrary to the most common complaint about the bush capital, he doesn’t mind that it’s a few hours from the beach.
“I lived on the beach for two and a half years when I lived in France and I never used it so I’m not really a beach person,” he smiled.
“The people in Canberra are great and since I’ve been here everyone’s made me feel welcome, so me and my partner just love being here.”
The Canberra Raiders start their 2021 campaign against Wests Tigers at GIO Stadium this Sunday, 14 March at 4.05pm; click here to buy tickets.
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