Rugby League

Canberra Raiders lure Jeff Lima as 'experienced head' in young pack

The Canberra Raiders are poised to sign Jeff Lima as an "experienced head" to complement their quality young props as they look to bolster their front row for next season. 

Lima has played the past two years with Super League side Catalans Dragons alongside fellow Canberra recruit Elliott Whitehead, currently in camp with the England squad. 

Jeff Lima in action for Catalans Dragons in the English Super League this year.
Jeff Lima in action for Catalans Dragons in the English Super League this year. 

While it is not yet official, it is understood the Raiders have all but agreed to terms on a two-year deal for the former New Zealand international, who last played in the NRL with South Sydney in 2013. 

Canberra are in the marketplace for experienced front-rowers after the departures of Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Melbourne, now retired), Brett White (retired), Dane Tilse (Hull KR), David Shillington (Gold Coast) and Mark Nicholls (Melbourne) over the past two years. 

Lima during his one year stint with South Sydney in 2013.
Lima during his one year stint with South Sydney in 2013.  Photo: Anthony Johnson

Lima, 33, played in two grand final wins with Melbourne Storm and was released from the Dragons with a year remaining on his three-year contract. 

The Raiders hope he will help the development of highly rated young props Paul Vaughan and Shannon Boyd, both coming off strong seasons. 

Advertisement

Lima's manager Sam Ayoub said although he is yet to officially sign, they are on the same page as the Raiders. 

"We still haven't finalised it, we've semi agreed but at this stage we're looking at a two year deal," Ayoub said. 

"Obviously they [Canberra] have got a lot of good young forwards and I think they were looking for a good experienced head.  

"I think that [mentoring young forwards] is a bit factor in his recruitment, he'll from good for some of the young Islander boys. 

"He just wants to be a good forward leader, which he is, I think it's an astute pick up. 

"He's played two or three grand finals, played in a Super League grand final, won a Challenge Cup with Wigan a few years back."

The move continues Raiders coach Ricky Stuart's penchant for signing players from the Super League. 

Hooker Josh Hodgson was outstanding in his first season after linking up from Hull KR, halfback Sam Williams seized his second NRL chance returning from Catalans and back rower Sia Soliola won the Mal Meninga Medal as player of the year. 

Lima's probable signing has been met with pessimism by many Raiders fans, but it was also the case when the club signed Soliola after five years with St Helens. 

Fairfax Media reported last week the Raiders are interested in young Parramatta enforcer Junior Paulo and Wests Tigers wrecking ball Martin Taupau, should they come onto the open market. 

However both are contracted to their respective clubs until the end of next season. 

Meanwhile, Ayoub said he is still searching for a new deal for off contract hooker Glen Buttriss, who will not return to the Raiders next year. 

The Raiders will ramp up their quest to upgrade and extend their best young players when Stuart and senior management return from holidays in coming weeks. 

Queensland Origin forward Josh Papalii and fullback Jack Wighton are the priorities given they are both off contract at the end of next year. 

Both will officially be on the market from November, but the Raiders are highly confident of keeping rival clubs at bay for their services.