Rugby League

Sisa Waqa 'isn't going anywhere' insists Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart

Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has confirmed Sisa Waqa "isn't going anywhere", adamant the Fijian is aware the support network the club provides him is crucial to overcome his off-field issues. 

Reports emerged on Thursday claiming the outside back had requested a release from the final year of his deal to head to French rugby. 

Stuart confirmed his manager, George Christodoulou, had made an approach but questioned whether Waqa was even aware of it, and the 29-year-old has told him he's happy at the Raiders. 

Christodoulou has not returned phone calls from Fairfax Media. 

"His manager approached the club, I don't even know if Sisa knew too much about it," Stuart said. 

"When I spoke to him last night [Friday] and again today, he's very comfortable with being here at the club. 

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"We've got a player there who gives us great utility value, he's experienced, he's great with the younger outside backs. 

"He told me he's very happy here, and we're building someone special. 

"He's a big part of our club, we love having him at the club and he's not going anywhere." 

Waqa opened up about gambling issues in the media early this year after the former Melbourne Storm player accepted a two-year deal at the Raiders. 

Canberra's welfare staff, headed by David Thom and Dean Souter, have put plenty of hours into helping Waqa stay on top of things and Stuart said he values it highly. 

"Sisa and his family have a great support network here at the Raiders. Sisa values that and appreciates it, and repays it with the way he plays his football," Stuart said. 

"What David and Dean do is at the coalface of welfare, they don't tick boxes, they actually get jobs done.

"It's really opened my eyes the professionalism and the expertise these two men have got in regards to how they help these kids in need. 

"A lot of these guys need support and Sisa values he's getting that from us. He won't get that support anywhere else in the world, he needs us as much as we need him."

It isn't the first time Waqa has been linked to a move to French rugby. 

Before he even arrived at the Raiders, Waqa rang the club to pledge his commitment after rumours surfaced he planned to renege on his contract.

Meanwhile, Stuart confirmed off-contract fringe prop Mark Nicholls is looking for another opportunity at a rival club given his struggle to cement a first grade spot at the Raiders. 

Nicholls has played only 19 NRL games since his debut in 2012, and a source close to Melbourne Storm has confirmed they've made unofficial enquiries about the 25-year-old.

The Raiders are on the lookout for a prop with veteran David Shillington to join Gold Coast Titans on a two-year deal from next year. 

"He [Nicholls] is a lovely young bloke and if he can find a joint where he'll be a constant first grade player at, I'm very happy for him to take that opportunity," Stuart said. 

"I've had a good discussion with Mark, he's been here since he's 15 and it's been tough for him. He's been 18th man a lot and hasn't been able to crack a first grade role."

Stuart also said half Josh McCrone will see out the final year of his contract next year, despite losing his first grade spot this year and being strongly linked to St George Illawarra and Manly. 

McCrone's manager, Steve Gillis, also texted Fairfax Media: "Staying mate. Full stop."

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