Canberra Raiders hooker Glen Buttriss says several players used the club's aggressive recruitment drive as motivation to show their worth and end their horror form slump against North Queensland on Sunday.
Buttriss had a point to prove because Canberra is keen to sign Michael Ennis on a reported two-year, $1 million deal. The Canterbury rake and his wife will tour Raiders HQ on Tuesday.
Canberra is also chasing the services of star West Tigers fullback James Tedesco on a three-year, $2.4 million contract.
The Raiders snapped a three-game losing streak with a 42-12 thrashing of the depleted Cowboys. Buttriss says several players, including himself, used the contract talks as a spur.
"I reckon it would be motivation for a lot of players, hearing they want to sign someone in their position,'' Buttriss said.
"It is a bit of motivation for me. Hearing that stuff during the week, the boys put in a good performance.''
Halfback Josh McCrone and outside back Reece Robinson headline the first-grade regulars yet to re-sign, while it is understood prop Tom Learoyd-Lahrs is resigned to playing elsewhere next year.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart moved quickly to ensure Buttriss, contracted for next year, was aware he remains in his plans. Bulldogs skipper Ennis would provide leadership for one of the NRL's youngest teams, and vice-captain Brett White is yet to decide whether he'll play on.
"I've had a talk to 'Sticky' about it, he called me into the office and let me know what was happening,'' Buttriss said.
"He just told me straight away and it was good to get it out in the open. Ricky told me I was still in the plans for next year and that made it a lot easier for me, I don't have to worry about that stuff.''
No Raiders player has been more maligned by fans in recent years than the 28-year-old. His entire career he has been forced to deal with constant calls for the club to sign an elite hooker, and Canberra unsuccessfully tried to lure Matt Ballin to the capital from last season onward.
A shocking injury run has crippled Buttriss' progress, but he has been ultra-consistent for the Raiders this year.
"It [criticism] has been going on for a few years now, I've had it for a while, so I try not to worry about that,'' he said.
Back-to-back huge defeats to Manly and the Warriors placed the Raiders under intense pressure, amid speculation Stuart would launch a player clean-out similar to the one he orchestrated at Parramatta.
Winger Robinson’s future remains under a cloud despite his strong recent form. He has the same manager as Tedesco in Sam Ayoub, which further complicates the situation.
He also manages Brisbane-bound Raiders fullback Anthony Milford, and Robinson admitted he’d love to prove he deserves the No.1 jersey should Tedesco remain at the Tigers.
Ayoub confirmed last week he had spoken to Canberra about Robinson's future, but has also investigated other possible options.
"I've spoken to the Raiders about Reece and I know they're certainly not ruling him out of the equation there, [but] I'm pushing Reece's barrow elsewhere as well,'' Ayoub said.
"The Raiders are talking about him in the same breath as they're talking to other players outside their environment.''
Asked if Ayoub had started talks on his behalf, Robinson said: “He must have, he’s got Tedesco, Mansour and Milford, so I’m sure he has.
“I try not to think about that at the moment, I try and focus on my own football.
“[If Tedesco doesn’t sign] I’d definitely put my hand up and would want to play fullback, if it happens, it happens.’’