Rugby League

Rivals circle Luke Page as Canberra Raiders sign English international Elliott Whitehead

Elliott Whitehead will join the Canberra Raiders in 2016.
Elliott Whitehead will join the Canberra Raiders in 2016. Photo: Jan Kruger

He's the emerging Canberra Raiders prop tagged the "Wrecking Ball", his reserve grade highlights from last weekend have already attracted more than 200,000 hits online, and NRL rival clubs are circling.

It's understood Raiders coach Ricky Stuart met with Luke Page on Wednesday to assure the front-rower he is in Canberra's NRL plans, but the club will delay contract extension talks until later in the season when the 24-year-old gets the chance to prove his value in the top grade.

The Raiders signed England international back-rower Elliott Whitehead on Wednesday, the 25-year-old to join Canberra on a two-year deal from 2016.

Canberra also have plans to elevate Page to their NRL squad in 2016, but they may need to fend off competition from rival clubs.

It's understood several NRL clubs have declared interest in poaching Page, more inquiries coming in after highlights of his barnstorming match for Mounties in the NSW Cup were posted on YouTube over the weekend.

Originally a Gold Coast Titans junior, Page joined the Raiders last year and was 2014 Queensland Cup player of the year. He is off contract at the end of the season, but Stuart confirmed the nuggety prop was getting closer to an NRL debut.

"The club will offer him a contract at the right time, we're really happy with his progression," Stuart said. "We see him as a first grade front-rower, it's just a matter of timing."

Stuart was confident Whitehead, who made his Test debut for England last year, would be a strong addition to the Raiders squad.

Whitehead has played 151 games in the UK Super League, was chosen in the 2014 "Dream Team" and will finish the season with French club Catalan Dragons before relocating to Canberra.

Stuart recruited England representative hooker Josh Hodgson, back-rower Sia Soliola and halfback Sam Williams from the UK Super League for this season and sought the opinion of all three before committing to the signing of Whitehead.

"They all gave him a number of raps, as a player and a person," Stuart said.

"The way the boys have come out and performed has given English rugby league a very creditable reputation in regards to their elite players.

"He's a good ball runner and ball player, he's very skillful. We've done a lot of homework on him, he's a player who I think will add value to the squad."

The Raiders squad has already undergone a major transformation in Stuart's short time at the club. The Raiders recruited six players in the off-season and all of them - Williams, Soliola, Hodgson, Frank-Paul Nu'uausala, Sisa Waqa and Blake Austin - played in the 13-point win over the Manly Sea Eagles.

Veteran prop Dane Tilse is available for two more games before he will be released to join former Raiders captain Terry Campese at Hull Kingston Rovers in the Super League.

Raiders prop David Shillington has also been linked to Hull KR when he comes off contract at the end of the season, but but the club may already have filled its international quota.

Stuart said there were no plans for a mid-season replacement for Tilse before the June 30 recruitment deadline. The Raiders intend to remain active in the player market.

"You're always looking, it's just important we keep adding good footy players to the squad," Stuart said.