Rugby League


Croker holds off on new contract

Canberra Raiders centre Jarrod Croker won't rush contract negotiations, with players and clubs in limbo until the NRL salary cap is finalised.

Croker's deal with the Raiders expires at the end of next year.

The 22-year-old has played 95 first-grade games for Canberra since debuting in 2009 and his accurate goal-kicking makes him a valuable commodity on the open market.

Croker's preference is to remain at the Raiders, but said the uncertainty over how much the salary cap would rise to in 2014 as part of the $1 billion television rights deal was a factor in the delay.

''I haven't really thought about it,'' Croker said.

''It is a first to be off contract.


''The last few years I've extended early on so I haven't had to worry about it.

''With all the salary cap stuff going on, I don't think there'll be much going on at all clubs.''

The NRL has advised clubs to plan for an estimated $5 million salary cap in 2013, but has given no figure beyond that.

Raiders veteran Shaun Berrigan is understood to be waiting until there's more clarity of how much the salary cap will be before confirming he will return next season.

The 34-year-old utility is expected to rejoin the Raiders for pre-season training on Tuesday after training by himself in Queensland.

Croker is one of several Raiders players off contract at the end of next year.

They include representative prop Brett White, halfback Sam Williams, second-rower Joe Picker and hookers Glen Buttriss and Matt McIlwrick.

Croker and teammate Blake Ferguson on Monday helped launch the Raiders' membership television commercial for next season featuring Canberra junior rugby league players.

Croker was all smiles, a far cry from two months ago when his finals campaign came to a crashing halt, suffering a fractured cheekbone in Canberra's semi-final win against Cronulla.

He was forced to watch from the sidelines as South Sydney eliminated the Raiders the following week.

''It was awful mate,'' Croker said.

''It was hard enough for me sitting there, let alone imagining how the boys felt not being able to go through.

''I would've liked to have been out there helping them, but that's footy I guess.''

Croker was unable to fly for five weeks after undergoing surgery.

He has resumed pre-season training with the Raiders, but will avoid contact work until next month.

While Croker is coming off a tough end to the season, his centres partner is eager to take on a more senior role after a breakthrough year.

Ferguson, also 22, had a starring role for Country Origin and is starting to fulfil the promise of the player who burst on to the scene with the Sharks in 2009.

Ferguson received Country's man of the match award in their annual clash with City in a sign he is edging closer to a maiden State of Origin jersey.

But his main focus is building on his impressive partnership on the right flank with winger Sandor Earl and nurturing the next generation of Raiders stars, including Blues-in-waiting squad members Jack Wighton and Mitch Cornish.

''I'm really happy I've finally cemented a spot in the centres and I want to play a bigger part in the team,'' Ferguson said.

''I want to mould some young kids and take on a bit more of a leadership role.''

Meanwhile, Raiders ticketed members will on Tuesday be able to purchase seats to next year's historic Test match between Australia and New Zealand at Canberra Stadium on April 19.

Tickets to Raiders ticketed members go on sale at Ticketek from 10am, before their sale to the public on December 19.