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Canberra Raiders must hold nerve and say no too

Saturday Serve

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart says he will continue the aggressive recruitment campaign.

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart says he will continue the aggressive recruitment campaign. Photo: Getty Images

Will the Canberra Raiders be able to say no too?

That's the next challenge facing coach Ricky Stuart and his recruitment staff as they look to rebuild the Raiders roster into a premiership contender.

Because while there's been more rejections at the Raiders in the past week than in a full series of television dating show The Bachelor, the Raiders need to be more careful than ever about who they give their roses to, so to speak, and try to recruit next.

In the past fortnight, Melbourne's Kevin Proctor and Penrith's Josh Mansour have turned down big offers from the Raiders to remain at their clubs. Bulldogs hooker Michael Ennis also appears certain to ignore Canberra's advances, likely to sign with the Cronulla Sharks.

The worst was to come, when Wests Tigers fullback James Tedesco reneged on a three-year $1.9 million agreement with Canberra. It was reportedly $150,000-a-season more than he will receive to stay at the Tigers,

The Raiders are not only angry about the Tedesco fiasco because it leaves them without a replacement fullback for outgoing star Anthony Milford and it has sent their recruitment process back to square one, but Tedesco's backflip has publicly embarrassed and damaged them.

It has added to a stigma that NRL players simply don't want to live and play in Canberra.

So Canberra is labelled boring, too cold, lacking corporate support, no free-to-air television exposure and coached by a man who's lost his lustre and winning edge. It is not only too far from the nearest beach haven, but painted in the media as the NRL's last resort.

Raiders administration must partly blame itself for this poor external perception of Canberra. It has used many of these same excuses over the past decade in what has become an almost defeatist attitude to recruiting marquee players.

Stuart rubbishes claims players won't come: the first question the Raiders ask of any potential recruit is 'do you want to live in Canberra?'

Fail to tick that box, there's no point proceeding to question two.

In fact, Stuart refrained from flying to Melbourne to meet Proctor early in negotiations when the Sydney Roosters, St George Illawarra Dragons and Storm were all interested in the Kiwi international. First, he needed to be convinced Proctor was genuine about moving to Canberra and not just bumping up his market-value.

So Proctor came to Canberra, toured facilities, had brunch at Kingston's trendy Me & Mrs Jones cafe with Raiders officials, before Stuart then flew to Melbourne to seal the deal.

Proctor shook Stuart's hand and said he'd be coming in 2015. The next day, as the Raiders were preparing the media release to announce the signing, Proctor had a change of heart too and said he was choosing "happiness over money" by staying in Melbourne.

So right now it leaves the Raiders looking like the NRL's most desperate and dateless, with a bucketload of cash and no one willing to take it.

But you can be sure there are plenty of other NRL players (and their managers) lining up to get a piece of the action in Canberra. For every player that has said no to the Raiders, there would be multiple more Canberra has already rejected.

Herein lies the challenge: will the Raiders hold their nerve and continue to say no? Or will the player resumes they tossed in the bin last week, be dragged out and given a second glance?

Stuart insists he won't panic and whether his strategy is right or wrong, at least he made his intentions clear when he said this week "we will continue to push forward with an aggressive recruitment program".

The Raiders are at a crossroads in their recruitment strategy. In recent weeks they have performed a backflip of its own.

For years the Raiders have prided themselves as a junior development club. But frustrated by a lack of support for junior concessions in the NRL's salary cap, the Raiders threatened to cut back investment in junior development and focus their finances on poaching established players from NRL rivals.

The past few weeks reveal how fraught that plan can be. Chasing established stars should be a consistent goal, but not at the exclusion of strong junior development.

It's understandable Raiders fans are frustrated, it's been 20 years since the last premiership and there's no genuine signs of a next.

But if Raiders fans can take heart from the failed recruitment drive to date, it's that the Raiders haven't been targeting reserve grade fodder. The Raiders don't need a lot of players, just a couple of really good ones.

Proctor represents New Zealand and, at 25, is nearing his prime. Ennis is a State of Origin hooker, while Mansour is on the cusp of Blues selection. Tedesco is rated one of the game's great prospects.

The Raiders showed interest in English prop James Graham and Manly back-rower Glenn Stewart too, but pursued neither of them vigorously beyond preliminary talks.

The Raiders are pursuing quality and that's tough to attract.

They also recognise they may have to pay over market-value for a marquee man. But that could pay off if it's the right player.  

We'll probably never know how much of a sliding doors moment it was when Proctor changed his mind about coming to Canberra.

Had he signed, would it have tempted Mansour to come too? Would Tedesco have followed through with his agreement? Would those signings have caused Ennis to reconsider his position to remain in Sydney, seeing a strong and youthful squad being assembled in the nation's capital.

One yes could make a big difference.

HuffPost Australia

NRL Season 2015

Round 1
Thu, 05 MarTimes shown AEDT
BRI 6vs SOU 36 Report Stats
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
PAR 42vs MAN 12 Report Report Stats
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW 24vs NZW 14 Report Stats
GCT 18vs WST 19 Report Stats
NQL 4vs SYD 28 Report Stats
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
PEN 24vs CBY 18 Report Stats
CRO 20vs CBR 24 Report Stats
Mon, 09 MarTimes shown AEDT
STG 4vs MEL 12 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
CBY 32vs PAR 12 Report Stats
CRO 2vs BRI 10 Report Stats
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
PEN 40vs GCT 0 Report Stats
MAN 24vs MEL 22 Stats
NQL 14vs NEW 16 Report Stats
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
SOU 34vs SYD 26 Stats
CBR 6vs NZW 18 Report Stats
Mon, 16 MarTimes shown AEDT
WST 22vs STG 4 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
MAN 12vs CBY 16 Report Stats
BRI 44vs NQL 22 Report Stats
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
NZW 29vs PAR 16 Report Stats
CBR 20vs STG 22 Report Stats
MEL 36vs CRO 18 Report Stats
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
SOU 20vs WST 6 Report Stats
GCT 18vs NEW 20 Report Stats
Mon, 23 MarTimes shown AEDT
SYD 20vs PEN 12 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
PAR 29vs SOU 16 Report Stats
WST 24vs CBY 25 Report Stats
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW 26vs PEN 14 Report Stats
CRO 22vs GCT 24 Report Stats
STG 12vs MAN 4 Report Stats
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
NZW 16vs BRI 24 Report Stats
SYD 34vs CBR 6 Report Stats
Mon, 30 MarTimes shown AEDT
NQL 18vs MEL 17 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
CBY 17vs SOU 18 Report Stats
GCT 16vs BRI 26 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MAN 16vs CBR 29 Report Stats
NEW 0vs STG 13 Report Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
SYD 12vs CRO 20 Report Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
PAR 6vs WST 22 Report Stats
MEL 30vs NZW 14 Report Stats
PEN 10vs NQL 30 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 22vs SYD 18 Report Stats
CRO 22vs NEW 6 Report Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
PAR 16vs GCT 38 Report Stats
NZW 32vs WST 22 Report Stats
PEN 22vs MAN 12 Report Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
CBR 10vs MEL 14 Report Stats
STG 31vs CBY 6 Report Stats
Mon, 13 AprTimes shown AEST
SOU 12vs NQL 30 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
CBY 28vs MAN 16 Report Stats
STG 12vs BRI 10 Report Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
GCT 32vs PEN 6 Report Stats
NQL 28vs NZW 24 Report Stats
MEL 17vs SYD 16 Report Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
WST 22vs CBR 30 Report Stats
NEW 22vs PAR 28 Report Stats
Mon, 20 AprTimes shown AEST
CRO 18vs SOU 10 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
CBY 14vs WST 38 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
NZW 28vs GCT 32 Report Stats
NEW 24vs NQL 26 Report Stats
SYD 12vs STG 14 Report Stats
MEL 10vs MAN 12 Stats
BRI 28vs PAR 16 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
PEN 26vs CRO 18 Stats
SOU 22vs CBR 30 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI 8vs PEN 5 Report Stats
SYD 36vs WST 4 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
CBR 56vs GCT 16 Stats
CRO 16vs NZW 20 Stats
NQL 23vs CBY 16 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
MAN 30vs NEW 10 Stats
PAR 10vs MEL 28 Stats
Mon, 11 MayTimes shown AEST
SOU 16vs STG 10 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
CBY 10vs SYD 24 Stats
NQL 31vs BRI 20 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
PAR 13vs NZW 17 Report Stats
GCT 22vs CRO 23 Report Stats
MEL 16vs SOU 12 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
STG 32vs CBR 18 Report Stats
NEW 22vs WST 12 Stats
Mon, 18 MayTimes shown AEST
MAN 10vs PEN 11 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
SOU 14vs PAR 12 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
WST 0vs NQL 8 Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
CBR 34vs CBY 41 Stats
Mon, 25 MayTimes shown AEST
NEW 18vs BRI 31 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
PEN 20vs PAR 26 Stats
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
GCT 16vs SOU 22 Report Stats
CBR 12vs BRI 24 Stats
NQL 18vs MAN 14 Report Stats
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
NZW 24vs NEW 20 Stats
STG 42vs CRO 6 Stats
Mon, 01 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD 24vs MEL 2 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI 44vs MAN 10 Report Stats
WST 20vs GCT 27 Report Stats
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
NEW 22vs CBR 44 Stats
SOU 36vs NZW 4 Stats
PEN 0vs MEL 20 Report Stats
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
CRO 10vs SYD 4 Stats
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
CBY 29vs STG 16 Stats
PAR 30vs NQL 36 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
WST 34vs SOU 6 Report Stats
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
NZW 21vs SYD 25 Report Stats
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
GCT 28vs CBY 14 Stats
Mon, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL 22vs PAR 26 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
MAN 30vs WST 20 Report Stats
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CBR 20vs NQL 21 Report Stats
GCT 14vs NZW 36 Report Stats
CBY 24vs PEN 12 Report Stats
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
NEW 28vs CRO 30 Report Stats
MEL 12vs BRI 14 Report Stats
Mon, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
STG 14vs SYD 19 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI 44vs NEW 22 Stats
SOU 20vs MAN 8 Report Stats
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
NZW 30vs CBR 8 Stats
NQL 18vs CRO 24 Report Stats
PAR 16vs STG 12 Report Stats
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD 20vs GCT 10 Stats
WST 12vs PEN 35 Stats
Mon, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
CBY 20vs MEL 4 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
PEN 20vs SOU 6 Report Stats
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
STG 12vs NQL 18 Report Stats
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
MAN 28vs CRO 16 Report Stats
Mon, 06 JulTimes shown AEST
WST 16vs PAR 28 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
CBR 36vs NEW 22 Stats
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
PEN 4vs SYD 24 Stats
CBY 8vs BRI 16 Stats
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
NZW 28vs MEL 14 Report Stats
CRO 28vs STG 8 Report Stats
Mon, 13 JulTimes shown AEST
GCT 6vs MAN 38 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
PAR 4vs CBY 28 Report Stats
MEL 52vs PEN 10 Report Stats
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
CBR 20vs CRO 21 Report Stats
NEW 30vs GCT 2 Report Stats
STG 8vs SOU 24 Report Stats
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD 24vs NZW 0 Report Stats
BRI 42vs WST 16 Stats
Mon, 20 JulTimes shown AEST
MAN 12vs NQL 30 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
BRI 34vs GCT 0 Report Stats
WST 8vs SYD 33 Stats
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
NZW 12vs MAN 32 Stats
MEL 22vs STG 4 Stats
SOU 52vs NEW 6 Stats
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
PEN 24vs CBR 34 Report Stats
CBY 16vs CRO 18 Report Stats
Mon, 27 JulTimes shown AEST
NQL 46vs PAR 4 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD 38vs CBY 28 Report Stats
WST 34vs MEL 16 Report Stats
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
NZW 14vs CRO 18 Stats
NQL 32vs CBR 24 Stats
MAN 44vs BRI 14 Stats
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
STG 46vs NEW 24 Stats
SOU 20vs PEN 16 Report Stats
Mon, 03 AugTimes shown AEST
GCT 24vs PAR 14 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI 16vs CBY 18 Report Stats
MAN 28vs SOU 8 Stats
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
NZW 0vs STG 36 Stats
CRO 30vs NQL 18 Stats
PAR 10vs PEN 4 Stats
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL 36vs GCT 14 Report Stats
NEW 22vs SYD 38 Report Stats
Mon, 10 AugTimes shown AEST
CBR 18vs WST 20 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Thu, 13 AugTimes shown AEST
NQL 18vs SOU 31 Stats
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI 32vs STG 6 Report Stats
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
WST 18vs NEW 24 Stats
PEN 24vs NZW 10 Stats
SYD 28vs PAR 18 Stats
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
CBR 24vs MAN 26 Stats
CBY 36vs GCT 14 Report Stats
Mon, 17 AugTimes shown AEST
CRO 2vs MEL 30 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 24
Thu, 20 AugTimes shown AEST
STG 19vs PEN 12 Report Stats
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
SOU 18vs CBY 32 Report Stats
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
CRO 40vs WST 18 Report Stats
NZW 16vs NQL 50 Report Stats
SYD 12vs BRI 10 Report Stats
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
GCT 28vs CBR 12 Stats
MAN 16vs PAR 20 Report Stats
Mon, 24 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL 6vs NEW 20 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 25
Thu, 27 AugTimes shown AEST
SOU 12vs BRI 47 Report Stats
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
MAN 10vs SYD 46 Report Stats
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
PAR 28vs CRO 35 Stats
NEW 18vs CBY 20 Stats
MEL 14vs NQL 6 Report Stats
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
WST 50vs NZW 16 Report Stats
GCT 28vs STG 26 Stats
Mon, 31 AugTimes shown AEST
CBR 34vs PEN 18 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 26
Thu, 03 SepTimes shown AEST
BRI 8vs MEL 15 Report Stats
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
SYD 30vs SOU 0 Report Stats
Sat, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
PEN 30vs NEW 12 Stats
STG 20vs WST 8 Stats
NQL ($1.17)vs GCT ($5.25) 19:301300
Sun, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
PAR ($1.60)vs CBR ($2.40) 14:00Pirtek
CRO ($1.45)vs MAN ($2.80) 16:00Rem
CBY ($1.08)vs NZW ($8.00) 18:30ANZ
View All Fixtures
NRL Ladder 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D Pts
Sydney Roosters 24 18 6 0 40
Brisbane Broncos 24 17 7 0 38
North Queensland Cowboys 23 16 7 0 36
Melbourne Storm 24 14 10 0 32
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 23 14 9 0 32
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 23 13 10 0 30
South Sydney Rabbitohs 24 13 11 0 30
St George-Illawarra Dragons 23 11 12 0 26
View all
 

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