Shaun Berrigan is weighing up his options. Photo: Colleen Petch
Veteran Shaun Berrigan is in a contract stand-off with the Raiders and contemplating retirement as Canberra also faces an injury crisis with its hookers to start the NRL pre-season.
Berrigan was a notable absentee when the Raiders began pre-season training on Friday, and none of Canberra's hookers were available to take part in fitness drills.
The Raiders were reluctant to discuss Berrigan's situation and chief executive Don Furner would only confirm Berrigan had not yet accepted an option in his contract to play on in Canberra next year.
New recruit Joel Edwards. Photo: Graham Tidy
Berrigan and his manager, George Mimis, did not return calls from The Canberra Times.
It's understood Berrigan is holding out for an anticipated rise in the NRL salary cap for next year before deciding whether to continue in the NRL or retire and take up a career in the Queensland mines.
Berrigan remains at home in Queensland, but Canberra coach David Furner was confident he would rejoin the Raiders' squad soon.
''We're just looking at where the salary cap is at the moment,'' Furner said. ''If it increases, then we're right to go. I'm confident that will all be sorted out.''
It is expected the NRL salary cap will rise from $4.4 million to $5 million next year because of the game's new billion-dollar broadcast deal.
Berrigan played 23 games for the Raiders last season and was a revelation when he moved to the bench, providing impact as a back-up dummy half.
''Early on he played in the centres, but I think his role will be around that nine area,'' Furner said. ''For the younger players, he's been very good with the experience.''
Berrigan's no-show is compounded by injuries to Raiders' hookers Glen Buttriss, Matt McIlwrick and Mick Picker to start the pre-season.
Buttriss and McIlwrick are unable to run because of ankle operations in the off-season, and Buttriss required a second operation because of complications.
Buttriss, tipped to be the club's first-choice hooker, is hopeful of returning to running before Christmas but admitted the recovery time was hard to estimate.
''I did a ride on the exercise bike about three weeks after the operation and my ankle locked up on me, it swelled right up, so I ended up having to get it cleaned up again,'' Buttriss said.
''I've just got to rest it .. I'm not too sure yet [on recovery] but I should be running back before Christmas.''
Picker is expected to miss the first two months of the pre-season following a hip operation.
The Raiders have no intention of giving an NRL lifeline to hooker Travis Waddell, who still remains without a club after being cut by Canberra at the end of the season. Waddell was linked to the Newcastle Knights, but the incentive-based deal has stalled.
Brisbane Broncos back-up hooker Kurt Baptiste and South Sydney Rabbitohs utility Ryan Carr are options for the Raiders. Canberra will certainly not lack depth in the back row, recruit Joel Edwards from the Newcastle Knights admits it will be tough to displace Josh Papalii and Joel Thompson.
''It's a good squad, so I'll be working hard to earn my spot,'' he said. ''There are senior blokes with plenty of experience and also young and exciting players, so I can't wait to learn off them.''
Mounties players Pat Galea and Scott Jones are training with the Raiders, as are several under-20s players, including Mitch Cronin, Mitch Cornish and Shannon Boyd.