Canberra Raiders player Mitch Cornish will not make his NRL debut on Sunday. Photo: Melissa Adams
The Canberra Raiders are fuming at an NRL rule that has denied the first-grade debut of Mitch Cornish and are threatening to reduce the amount of resources they put into junior development.
The Raiders were seeking an exemption to the second-tier salary cap so they could play the 20-year-old halfback in Sunday's final round fixture with Cronulla at Canberra Stadium, but were on Thursday knocked back by the NRL.
''The rule has got to be changed, it's prehistoric,'' Dunemann said.
''All it's doing is stunting the growth of our young players.
''What they have to understand is the ramifications it has on the young bloke. Mitch has been jumping out of his skin, ready to play. All of a sudden you take that out from underneath him and who knows what could happen in the future. All it ends up doing is making them fall out of love with the game.''
The Raiders are already at the limit of the $375,000 second-tier salary cap and have another player in the same position in their top-25 squad who is available for selection.
St George Illawarra-bound halfback Sam Williams has been recalled to make his Raiders farewell.
Cornish is rated as one of the most promising playmakers in the game.
The NSW under-20s representative has signed with the Raiders until the end of 2015 and has been picked in the National Youth Competition team of the year for the past two seasons.
The Goulburn junior has risen through the ranks with the Raiders, playing for their Harold Matthews Cup and S.G. Ball teams. He captains their Holden Cup side.
Raiders chief executive Don Furner said the club would reconsider its vast investment in junior development.
''We constantly question why we invest so much into our junior development program, and this is another reason why we will review it, along with a zero benefit in developing your own juniors from a salary cap perspective,'' Furner said.
''We fail to see any possible negative had Mitch been granted an exemption to play.
''The NRL salary cap auditor provided reasons such as a negative 'ripple' effect on sponsors, fans, media and employees, and I am not sure if he is talking about Raiders sponsors, fans and media or those of the Sharks.''
Sharks star Todd Carney - who is also from Goulburn and has trained with Cornish in the off-season - believed the NRL should have granted Cornish permission to play.
''If they can't make the finals and if it's to blood a young kid in the game, then I don't mind,'' Carney said.
''It would have been good for him to have a crack at first-grade before the season ends.
''His kicking game and touch of the football is great, and he's not afraid to take the line on.''
The Sharks are assured of hosting an elimination final next week.
with Jon Tuxworth