Rugby League

NRL: Canberra Raiders welcome back Mitch Barnett after contract dispute

Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart says Mitch Barnett's contract dispute with the club was "just part of business" and doesn't expect there to be any ongoing issues.

Barnett had threatened to walk out on the Raiders despite having two years left on his deal when the contract wasn't lodged with the NRL.

However, the 21-year-old has since returned to the club after the Raiders located the signed contract on November 5.

You would imagine the first conversation between player and coach after such a messy situation would be a bit awkward, but Stuart said that wasn't the case.

"I sat down and had a good chat to Mitch on Monday on his return and he understands where he is at," Stuart said.

"I sat down and explained to him that he's a young player with a career in front of him.

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"It's just a matter of developing it."

Barnett re-signed with the Raiders in April this year, but the contract was never lodged with the NRL.

On October 31, Barnett's manager informed the Raiders her client wouldn't be returning to the club.

The NRL salary cap auditor found Barnett didn't have a binding contract with the Raiders.

The Raiders considered taking legal action against Barnett because he had given a written agreement to the club for a contract extension until 2017.

Barnett played two games for the Raiders this year in his debut season and was named the player of the year in the NSW Cup.

But he faces plenty of competition for a regular spot in the Raiders side with the likes of Josh Papalii, Sia Soliolia and English international Elliott Whitehead challenging for places in the second row.

Papalii and Soliolia both enjoyed great seasons for the Raiders while Whitehead demonstrated his talent in last weekend's victory against New Zealand.

Barnett was offered a more lucrative contract by the Gold Coast Titans and asked the Raiders for a release earlier this year after the Raiders signed Whitehead.

Barnett is out of action as he recovers from a thumb injury.

"He had to have an operation on his thumb last Friday, but he's fitted back in well," Stuart said.

"We've sent him home for the next three days to see his girlfriend and he's back on deck on Friday for another specialist appointment in regards to his thumb.

"He can't do any training at the moment, but he'll start next Monday."

The Raiders have been back in training for the past two weeks as they take the first steps to returning to the finals for the first time since 2012.

Buoyed by several re-signings, including Shannon Boyd, Joey Leilua and Jack Wighton, Stuart has been impressed with the attitude the Raiders have adopted in the off-season before returning to training.

"The way the players have looked after themselves during their off-season break and the attitude they have displayed is so comforting for me as a coach," Stuart said.

"They are very enthusiastic and they know we are building something special here."

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