Rugby League


NRL: Canberra Raiders forward Mitch Barnett wants to extend contract after walking out

Canberra Raiders forward Mitch Barnett wants to show he deserves a contract extension after threatening to walk out on the club a couple of months ago.

Barnett is committed to seeing out on the remaining two years of his contract and knows he faces an intense battle to crack a second-row rotation containing three internationals.

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The 21-year-old faced the prospect of the Raiders taking legal action against him when he didn't report for pre-season training in November.

Barnett's contract wasn't  lodged with the NRL, only for the Raiders to discover the document a week later.

Barnett returned to the Raiders late last year after having surgery on a thumb injury.

One of the first things he did was clear the air with Raiders coach Ricky Stuart, who was on annual leave at the time.


"Obviously there were a few dramas in the off-season," said Barnett, who was helping on the barbecue at the ActewAGL's Great Aussie Day Breakfast at Commonwealth Park on Australia Day.

"I was nervous coming back. The worst part was, when it all went down, Ricky was on holidays, which probably didn't help the situation.

"If Ricky had been here we could have sat down face to face and there wouldn't have been a drama.

"It all probably got blown out of proportion, but since Ricky called me into his office and had that chat, there hasn't been an awkward feeling."

Barnett admits there were more lucrative offers from other clubs on the table than his current deal with the Raiders, which was signed before he made his first-grade debut in August last year.

"When it all came out, I did have a look around," Barnett said.

"When you get opportunities presented to go elsewhere, obviously they were a bit more enticing compared to (the Raiders deal) since I played first grade.

"I have no regrets, but I'm happy here at the Raiders."

So happy in fact that Barnett would consider remaining at the Raiders beyond the end of 2017.

"The club's been really professional and I've tried to be as professional as they have. There's no dramas there," Barnett said.

"I've got two years on my contract and I'm going to see them out and hopefully I can have a big year this year and I'd like to extend. 

"I'm not unhappy here and the Raiders have been more than fair to me, I've realised that and we're just moving forward from there."

Barnett had a terrific season last year, named the NSW Cup player of the year for his performance at Mounties and representing the NSW Residents.

He also impressed in his two performances for the Raiders.

But standing in his way of becoming a regular starter in the second row are three internationals – Josh Papalii (Australia), Sia Soliolia (New Zealand) and English recruit Elliott Whitehead.

"All I'm going to do is put my head down, work hard and I'm hoping Sticky sees that, from feedback he has," Barnett said.

"I worked hard with Sia last year and he helped me out massively, and I've been working with (Papalii) as well and the knowledge he has passed on to me is unreal.

"Between those three and Ricky and the assistant coaches, I've got no excuses but to play good footy."

The other option is for Barnett is to move into the front-row, an area where the Raiders are light on in depth.

 "Obviously I've got to come back from my thumb surgery so I've got to put on a bit of weight, which I'm starting to do," he said.

"With interchanges going down, maybe there is a place for me there."