Rugby League

Canberra Raiders rule out player swap or transfer fee for Knight Joseph Tapine

The Canberra Raiders have categorically quashed any chance of a player swap or transfer fee with Newcastle to speed up the release of Joseph Tapine, even if it means they will have to wait until next year for his services.

Tapine has signed with Canberra from 2017, but his manager Jim Banaghan has lodged an official complaint with the NRL after the back-rower was excluded from Knights training and told to train on his own.

In limbo: Newcastle Knight Joseph Tapine.
In limbo: Newcastle Knight Joseph Tapine.  Photo: Jonathan Carroll

Knights CEO Matt Gidley said on Thursday the club was seeking adequate compensation should they release Tapine early to the Raiders for this season.

But Raiders officials confirmed on Friday they will not entertain the option of trading a player with Newcastle.

Raiders recruitment boss Peter Mulholland, who recruited Tapine to Newcastle as a teenager, said Canberra had deliberately stayed out of the situation as they haven't pressed Newcastle for an early release.

"Ricky's got a very happy squad and he's completely satisfied with the squad," Mulholland said.

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"Anything which would add to it would be great, but we're certainly not going to take away from it.

"We purposely stayed out of it because there's no way in the world we want to be seen as inducing him into breaking his contract.

"Had we gone in and tried to negotiate a release we probably would have gone in with some idea they'd ask for a transfer fee, but it's entirely up to his management and the Knights to sort out what he's doing."

Up to five clubs were chasing the 21-year-old, who has played 20 first grade games with Newcastle the last two years.

Mulholland said he was pointed in the Junior Kiwis direction by David Lomax, the brother of Raiders 1994 premiership winner John, when on a Wellington scouting mission.

"I signed him as a 15 year old and he's got a big aerobic capacity, he's got good feet and is strong.

"He was a rangy kid, built a bit like Frank Pritchard was as a youngster and was always going to grow into a big person.

"He's able to play in the middle which is really important with the interchange going down.

"Joe's very coachable, [Raiders assistant] Mick Crawley had a wonderful relationship with him in the NYC at Newcastle for two years.

"His girlfriend and [fellow Knights recruit] Adam Clydsdale's girlfriend are best friends.

"He's handled a couple of positions and even played out in the centres, [former Knights coach] Wayne Bennett wouldn't debut a kid if he didn't think he was ready."

Meanwhile, Raiders fullback Jack Wighton has been ruled out of the Knights trial as a precaution after he suffered concussion playing for the Indigenous All Stars last week.

It means Wighton and five-eighth Blake Austin, two key members of Canberra's 'spine' won't have any match practice before round one.

But Stuart doesn't believe it will impede preparations for the home season opener against Penrith on March 5.

"It's no issue at all, I don't think so anyhow," he said.

"They've done that much training and put that much footy in, 40 minutes of footy isn't going to make or break it at this stage of the year."

NRL TRIAL MATCH

Saturday: Canberra Raiders v Newcastle Knights at Wade Park, Orange, 6.30pm