Rugby League

NRL: Canberra Raiders winger Sisa Waqa endorses Ricky Stuart as club's long-term coach

Canberra Raiders winger Sisa Waqa has endorsed the club's plans to lock in coach Ricky Stuart to a long-term contract as it aims to break a 22-year premiership drought.

The Raiders are on the verge of signing Stuart to a new deal until at least 2018, with potential options to extend his tenure even further if the Green Machine clicks into gear.

Canberra Raiders winger Sisa Waqa (left) with other team representatives at the launch of the Auckland Nines jerseys in ...
Canberra Raiders winger Sisa Waqa (left) with other team representatives at the launch of the Auckland Nines jerseys in Sydney on Tuesday. Photo: Mark Kolbe

"Ricky is one of those coaches who is honest with what he does, and to me that's the main thing," Waqa said.

"The honesty that he has and the way he looks after the boys, it's been unbelievable and it would be good to have him for the next three or four years."

The Canberra Raiders are negotiating with coach Ricky Stuart about a new contract.
The Canberra Raiders are negotiating with coach Ricky Stuart about a new contract. Photo: Jay Cronan

Stuart's contract expires at the end of next year, but the Raiders initiated negotiations with him three weeks ago rather than wait to see if the club will be a premiership contender.

The Raiders have missed the finals in Stuart's first two years in charge, but made positive steps this season with the emergence of several young stars.

There's plenty of optimism about the Raiders' fortunes next year based on their relatively soft draw and their impressive recruitment drive.

Waqa is one of several experienced players, alongside the likes of Sia Soliolia, Frank-Paul Nuuasuala, English international Josh Hodgson and five-eighth Blake Austin, who joined the Raiders this season.

Throw in the addition of former Gold Coast Titans playmaker Aidan Sezer and English forward Elliott Whitehead, and it's easy to see why the Raiders have shortened in the betting market to reach the top eight.

Waqa believes it's Stuart's relationship with the players which has played a major role in attracting and retaining the current group.

"The boys have been responding well to Ricky and he's been good how he's looking after the boys," Waqa said.

"Not only in the football department, but the welfare side of things as well.

"He puts the boys in front of him, and that's the same thing he did for me when I first came here."

Waqa is in the final year of his two-year contract and has an option for a third season in 2017.

He had been linked to a move to French rugby, but said his focus was on the Raiders.

"I'd like to stay here as long as I can, but it's business and I'll leave that to Ricky and the club," Waqa said.

"French rugby has always been an option to go overseas and finish my career.

"I'm at the Raiders and I have one more year on my contract and I'll honour that and I'll play my role the best I can."

Waqa was in Sydney on Tuesday to show off the jersey the Raiders will wear at next year's Auckland Nines.

It's a tournament the Raiders have struggled at during the past two seasons, sending a predominately younger squad and saving their big guns for the season proper.

Having made his debut for the Raiders at this year's event, Waqa believes they have the attacking flair in their squad to make an impact.

"Everyone is starting to talk about the Nines after getting into pre-season training and hopefully we will send a good side to compete," Waqa said.

"The Raiders have been sending young teams, but hopefully we send a decent side and win the Nines."