Rugby League

NRL: Canberra Raiders scan New Zealand, England and PNG for recruiting talent

He went close to convincing All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu to choose rugby league over rugby union and also saw the potential in modern-day star Nehe Milner-Skudder.

Canberra Raiders recruitment manager Peter Mulholland will continue to look "outside the box" for quality players and says New Zealand's domestic rugby union competition is a source of untapped riches.

Mulholland is just over a month into his role at the Raiders after coming across from the St Illawarra Dragons to replace David Hamilton, who has joined the Gold Coast Titans.

The Raiders have widened their net in recent seasons, recruiting English international Josh Hodgson from the Super League and second-rower Elliott Whitehead from the Catalans Dragons.

Hodgson was a revelation in his first season with the Raiders this year while Whitehead arrives in Canberra with big wraps after a breakout Test series against New Zealand.

The Raiders also have PNG Hunters outside back Kato Ottio on trial during the pre-season after Mulholland noticed his performances in the Queensland Cup.

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Mulholland is one of the most experienced recruiters in the NRL having spent the past 20 years at several clubs including the Penrith Panthers and the Canterbury Bulldogs.

When he was at the Bulldogs, Mulholland tried to bring Lomu across from New Zealand and revealed he was set to make the move to the NRL before having a change of heart.

He also did the same with Milner-Skudder before he decided to return to New Zealand, playing a key role in this year's World Cup triumph for the All Blacks.

Mulholland believes that New Zealand's domestic rugby union competition, the ITM Cup, is a hot-bed of rugby league talent.

"No one realises Jonah Lomu agreed to terms with Canterbury before he became an All Black," Mulholland said.

"At the end of the day, you've just got to look outside the square.

"You fish where the fish are. New Zealand rugby union is a very strong competition and a very strong arm of the game.

"There are only five Super Rugby teams in New Zealand, so straight away you look at where the block holes might be."

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart is set to be rewarded for the club's outstanding recruitment drive with a new two-year contract until the end of 2018 to be announced this week.

For so long having struggled to attract big-name players, the Raiders have turned that around in recent years.

Hodgson, Blake Austin, Sia Soliola, Sisa Waqa, BJ Leilua and Frank-Paul Nu'uausala joined the Raiders this season, while Aidan Sezer and Whitehead have topped up the roster.

"It's what Canberra can sell," Mulholland said.

"Canberra can sell the lifestyle and the town, the high performance centre that they will eventually have at Braddon, the coach they've got, the structure they've got in place, the pathways that are open to them, the education and welfare we can offer a player.

"We're a professional sport, and as much as you'd like to have as many juniors as you possibly could in a side, you're in a national competition and you've got to recruit nationally.

"You can't recruit locally for a national competition or you'll end up behind the eight ball."

Mulholland said his focus had been on improving the roster for the 2017 season and beyond.

"We're looking OK for '17 and we'll have some strategic positions we need to reinforce," Mulholland said.

"We haven't got a target, we really need to assess what we've got in '16 first.

"We've got a succession plan in place.

"We've got some wonderful outside backs coming through and every club is looking for prop forwards."

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