Stuart stays silent in Papalii battle
Ricky Stuart at Royal Canberra Golf Course on Monday. Photo: Colleen Petch
They spilt blood together to help Canberra to its last premiership, but there'll be no room for nostalgia as Ricky Stuart and David Furner ramp up their battle for Josh Papalii's signature.
While Parramatta coach Stuart was playing at Royal Canberra in his charity golf day on Monday, the Raiders officially began their quest to stop Papalii's defection to the Eels.
Canberra board member Terry Weber, a senior partner at Pricewaterhouse Coopers, met corporate sponsors keen to help bolster Papalii's contract through third-party assistance.
Josh Papalii during training last week. Photo: Colleen Petch
Parramatta announced last Friday night they had signed Papalii on a $1.5 million, three-year deal beginning next year.
Under NRL guidelines the Raiders have until round 13 to change his mind, and club officials are privately optimistic they can do so.
Stuart's golf day raises money for autism research, a condition his daughter suffers from, but he teed off at media before doing so with his clubs.
He refused to discuss the Papalii situation, brushing aside reporters when asked about the contract stand-off.
Weber helped the Raiders re-sign star fullback Josh Dugan last year, and told Fairfax Media he would ''do everything possible'' to also help keep Papalii in lime green.
''Terry's influence, we're going to need that to get close [to Parramatta's offer],'' Raiders coach David Furner said.
''That's why that rule [round 13] is in place, it gives the incumbent club the last possible chance.
''Terry's a big supporter of the Raiders and we're very happy about it, but it's going to take time.
''I said to him [Papalii] on Saturday he just has to be thinking about footy, and he assured me he'll be doing that.
''We're lucky to have that round 13 [clause], and we have an opportunity.''
Papalii is one of a host of Raiders stars off contract at the end of this season, with halfback Sam Williams, centre Jarrod Croker, second-rower Joel Thompson, hooker Glen Buttriss and prop Brett White heading the list.
The Raiders traditionally lock up required players well before contracts expire, but the fact the salary cap for this year wasn't settled until last week hindered those efforts.
Furner conceded the club is fighting an uphill battle to keep the squad intact.
''Josh is still a priority, but we've got other priorities as well,'' Furner said.
''Those other players are priorities as well, we can get to a certain mark with Josh and we're hoping that all gets sorted out.
''I'd like to keep them all [but] reality will be I probably can't.
''As players are playing more first grade and becoming better players with opportunities to represent … the reality is you can't.
''With the salary cap the reality is you can't keep them all, but we're going to try hard.''
The Raiders have been a vocal campaigner for junior concessions for some time, and Furner insists the idea has merit.
''There is [scope for it], there would be clubs that wouldn't want it in there, [but] it would be nice for a certain age,'' Furner said.
''I know it would be beneficial for this club for sure, but it's not stopping them [other clubs] from getting the Josh Papalii's from a very young age and putting them in [their system].''
Furner said his team must guard against contract discussions becoming a distraction as they look to qualify for finals in consecutive years for the first time since 2003-04.
''It can't be [a distraction], we can't afford it, staff, coaches or players,'' Furner said.
''Certainly we're rolling on with a few of them and it's going to happen all year.''
Furner said Croker, last year's NRL leading pointscorer, remains a chance to play in round one at Penrith as he recovers from a knee injury sustained two weeks ago.