Raiders development guru David Hamilton with Paul Vaughan, Jack Wighton, Ben Picker and Sami Sauiluma in 2011. Photo: Stuart Walmsley
Canberra development guru David Hamilton insists the Raiders will not be bullied out of south-east Queensland by the big-spending Broncos, claiming Brisbane still needs to ''prove themselves'' in the junior recruitment war.
Hamilton said the sackings of stars Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson this year had hurt the club's long-term recruitment strategy ''big-time'', while the contractual stand-off with Anthony Milford threatens to put another major ''hole'' in the club's roster.
But Hamilton expressed confidence in Canberra's emerging juniors to fill any void.
Canberra's ongoing battle to retain Milford for next season and the NRL's recent decision to block halfback Mitch Cornish's NRL debut because of second-tier salary cap issues have frustrated Raiders officials. Chief executive Don Furner has publicly questioned the club's ongoing investment in junior development.
The Raiders' successful recruitment belt in the southern Brisbane area of Logan is also under siege from the Broncos, who have poached development officer Brian Edwards to set up their new $6.5 million junior academy.
Edwards was the scout responsible for spotting Raiders talent such as Milford, Josh Papalii and Edrick Lee in Logan, while Raiders legends such as Mal Meninga and Gary Belcher originated from the area.
Hamilton, awarded Raiders Clubman of the Year this season, admitted his own belief in the Queensland recruitment strategy had been temporarily shaken.
''Even I have doubts sometimes about whether the Queensland venture is the right way to do it, but I'm 100 per cent certain we need to continue,'' he said.
Hamilton said he wasn't threatened by Brisbane's big-spending approach, claiming ''you can't have everyone''.
When appointed to the Raiders, Hamilton researched the origin of NRL players over a decade and highlighted Newcastle and Logan as junior development hot-spots.
''It's why we went there,'' he said. ''The Broncos have still got to prove themselves.
''Obviously they've got a great brand and great name, but now they've got to deliver.
''If I tap a kid on the shoulder and give him a contract in Brisbane, he knows he's coming down to wear the Raiders jumper. That hasn't been the case so far with the Broncos, some of their kids never get to play for the club.
''We've always had the mentality of quality over quantity. If they [the development officers] pick 10 kids, I say 'well pick the two that have the best opportunity to play NRL'. I think that's why we've been successful.''
Hamilton said the NRL needed to address the issue of compensation or transfer fees for clubs which developed juniors, only to lose them as established NRL stars.
The Broncos are in line to snap up Milford if he goes through with his request for a release, to rejoin family in Brisbane.
Hamilton, partly responsible for advising coaching staff on recruitment strategies as well as junior development, said the retention of Milford was pivotal for the Raiders, given the unexpected departures of Dugan and Ferguson had already thrown plans out of whack.
''It puts a hole in your recruitment strategies … that was never in our train of thought back then and it hurts big-time.''
''I feel confident we have people to do the job. Jack Wighton and Edrick Lee will come straight into the back line and fill those voids, I have no doubt about that. But you don't want to lose a Milford, too.''