Rugby League


Canberra Raiders have 'financial ammunition' to change roster for 2015

The Canberra Raiders have the "financial ammunition" to snare a marquee player for next season after missing out on big-name recruits in recent years.

While the Raiders were keen to keep Anthony Milford, his departure to the Brisbane Broncos gives them the ability to add several valuable pieces to their roster.

The Raiders are in a three-way showdown with Melbourne and the St George Illawarra Dragons for the prized signature of powerful back-rower Kevin Proctor, who is expected to make a decision on his future next week.

They also have been linked with Wests Tigers fullback James Tedesco, Penrith flyer Josh Mansour and Bulldogs veteran Michael Ennis.

Raiders fans have been burnt in the past when their club has pursued NSW stars Glenn Stewart and Tim Grant, both eventually signing with South Sydney.

But an NRL player manager, who did not want to be named, believes the Raiders are perfectly poised to be bigger factors in the open market given the salary cap room at their disposal.


''They're certainly trying (to sign a marquee player) and they've got the financial ammunition to compete with clubs,'' the player manager said.

"If they can land Proctor, it would certainly be a profile signing for them.

"The market's going to shrink soon, so there will be blokes looking for an opportunity."

The Raiders have added Burleigh Bears prop Luke Page as a mid-season signing for this year and are interested in Cowboys outside back Curtis Rona (three NRL games) and Manly fullback/winger Clinton Gutherson, who played his only first-grade game last year.

In the past five seasons the Raiders have recruited just 17 players with NRL experience at other clubs.

Of those 17 players, 11 are still at the Raiders, with winger Reece Robinson the most successful with 68 games, while sacked star Blake Ferguson and Brett White have made more than 50 appearances.

Robinson, White, Joel Edwards - who has re-signed until 2017 - and Mosese Pangai are in the Raiders team for Sunday's match with Penrith at Canberra Stadium.

The player manager said one of the Raiders' strengths had been their emphasis on junior development, citing the likes of Jarrod Croker, Edrick Lee and Shaun Fensom as examples.

He said players, when deciding which club to join, considered several factors, including the pathway into first-grade, the coach, how competitive the side is and the city itself.

"To get a kid out of Sydney, you're really asking him to step out of his comfort zone and to go to a different environment altogether,'' he said.

"All destinations have positives and negatives, and Canberra has some positives and negatives when giving information to players.

"If you get them in, make them happy and keep team morale up, they're generally happy to stay, as long as you can pay their market value."

The Raiders have 13 players off contract at the end of the season.

Former Queensland five-eighth Ben Ikin believes first-year Raiders coach Ricky Stuart could use a similar tactic he employed at Parramatta last season.

Stuart assessed the talent the Eels had on their roster in his first season in charge and made some tough decisions on experienced players.

The results are paying off for the Eels, who are having a much-improved season after collecting the wooden spoon last year.

"If they've got the money to buy some marquee players who can make a difference, you don't knock that opportunity back,'' Ikin said.

"If they had somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million then they can go to the market and bolster their roster. 

"You normally have the first 12 months to figure out who you're going to get and who you're going to let go.

"It then takes another 12 months to get to the club the kind of players you think you need, and by year three you've got no excuses."