Rugby League


Jordan Rapana gets to play on in NRL with Canberra Raiders

Jordan Rapana's NRL comeback rolls on with the Raiders, but it has further clouded veteran Reece Robinson's career in Canberra as the club continues its search for a long-term fullback.

Raiders chairman Allan Hawke also said the club was closely watching the Brisbane Broncos salary cap investigation and was poised to enter the market for players who may be caught up in the potential fallout – even departing Canberra fullback Anthony Milford.

Having played his first NRL match in six years on the weekend, Rapana remains Canberra's immediate priority for the available No.1 role next season.

But the club said he was a week-to-week proposition for the rest of the year, given Canberra has exhausted its second-tier salary cap and Rapana requires NRL clearance to play each game because he's outside the club's top-25 contracted players.

The Raiders were granted an NRL exemption on Tuesday to select Rapana for a second consecutive week. Rapana will take his place in an unchanged Canberra team against the St George Illawarra Dragons at Canberra Stadium on Saturday.

The Raiders are keen to give Rapana as much time in the top grade as possible, given he signed a one-year contract extension last week and is viewed as a potential successor to Milford.


Rapana's selection for the Dragons game had been in jeopardy because Raiders outside-backs Robinson (lower back) and Sami Sauiluma (ankle) – both in Canberra's top 25 – return from injury. Robinson and Sauiluma are both likely to play NSW Cup with Raiders feeder-club Mounties.

It is becoming apparent that Robinson, a regular NRL player with the Raiders since 2010 but off contract at the end of the season, will not be in Canberra next year.

Milford is scheduled to meet salary cap investigators this week in relation to his Broncos deal. The meeting is likely to take place Wednesday or Thursday. There is no suggestion Milford's two-year deal at Brisbane from next year is in question.

The Broncos already have Josh Hoffman, Ben Barba and Milford on their books as potential fullback options next season, and there is a strong chance Darius Boyd will follow Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett to Brisbane in 2015.

It's understood the Raiders are also taking interest in the situation of Manly fullback Brett Stewart, who has reportedly asked for a release from the Sea Eagles, unhappy with the club's treatment of older brother Glenn.

Hawke made it clear NRL rules blocked the Raiders from entering discussions with Brisbane players until at least November, given they are contracted next season. But the Raiders chairman said the club was monitoring the situation from afar.

"We'll see what develops," Hawke said. "We can't do anything until November, there's no point speculating about anything until we get to there. We've just got to make sure we do the right thing. 

"There are some players in Brisbane we'd definitely be interested in if they have to move a few on. It depends on who they are and what the timing is, they've got some players we definitely want to have a look at."

Asked if the Raiders would consider taking back Milford, Hawke said: "If the Broncos can't take him, yeah. We love the kid, we think he's made a contribution and he will again. If he's still available, certainly we won't turn our back on him." 

Milford played in the halves in Canberra's spirited 18-10 loss to the Parramatta Eels in Darwin on Saturday, enabling Rapana to play his first NRL match since his rookie season for the Gold Coast Titans in 2008.

Rapana, who turns 25 on Friday, left the NRL for a two-year Mormon mission and dabbled unsuccessfully in Super Rugby before returning to rugby league last year. 

Rapana was solid in his debut for Canberra on the weekend, particularly in the first half. He has a genuine shot to stake his claim for the No.1 jersey next season.

"I'm excited about Jordan getting the opportunity to play again," coach Ricky Stuart said. "It's all about next year and the more first grade games he can get, the better for him and the cohesion of the team."