The Canberra Raiders are confident junior player concessions will be included in the salary cap by next season after NRL boss David Smith reassured them he intends to honour his promise in Canberra last week.
Smith and NRL head of club and state services, Tony Crawford, discussed the issue with the Raiders board and head coach Ricky Stuart in a 1½ hour meeting on Wednesday.
The Raiders have a vibrant junior nursery, and have been particularly vocal on the need for a system that rewards clubs for development to be introduced.
Smith reiterated to the club last week his intention to pursue the matter seriously.
The Raiders stepped up their push for such a system to be introduced after star fullback Anthony Milford signed with Brisbane for the next two years.
Canberra has struggled to attract big name players and their chases for James Tedesco, Josh Mansour, Michael Ennis and Kevin Proctor in the past have all been unsuccessful.
"We discussed a range of issues, but one was the NRL is going to have a serious look at issues relating to development,'' Raiders chairman Allan Hawke said.
"The sort of things they were talking about investigating development fees, and salary cap mechanisms similar to what they do for long-serving players.
"The board was very relieved to hear they are looking at that.
"Quite often we develop a player, another club comes along and says they're now a marquee player, thank you very much we will take them away from you. Obviously that doesn't help our cause.''
Asked if he got the impression that concessions would be in place by next year, Hawke said: "[Smith] didn't say that categorically, but my impression was they would be completing this before the start of next season.''
In an earlier visit to Canberra last month, Smith gave an encouraging indication that junior salary cap concessions will be introduced.
"We've looked at the salary cap and the club funding model; what we haven't looked at is player development and how we treat that to recognise clubs like Canberra Raiders,'' Smith said.
"We've got to have a system that recognises those clubs which do the great job the Raiders do [with junior development].
"Everybody's clear it's something that's perhaps been a bit of a loose end, and it's something we're committed to having looked at by the end of the year.''
"We want 16 competitive clubs. It's about getting that balance right and recognising the difference in clubs. It costs a lot of money to develop a player; I think we need to recognise clubs like the Raiders for doing that."
The Raiders [4-11] have lost six of their past seven matches, and will look to emerge from their rut against Gold Coast on Sunday.
They failed to take advantage of an injury-plagued Wests Tigers in a 19-18 loss at Campbelltown last start.
Raiders prop Brett White said the spiteful first half showed the club, equal last with Cronulla and Newcastle, will continue to fight.
"It really showed the passion the boys have,'' White said.
"It's been there, but it probably hasn't been as invisible to people on the outside.
"I was really happy it was more evident against the Tigers.
"We'll make sure hopefully every week that happens now.''
NRL round 18: Gold Coast Titans v Canberra Raiders at Cbus Super Stadium, 2pm.
TV: Live on Fox Sports 1.