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Locker room

Locker room: Big Mal Meninga back home in Canberra

It is now well known that Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart is living in the former house of former prime minister Kevin Rudd, and another Raiders legend has snuck back into town. It's amazing Big Mal Meninga can sneak anywhere these days, given his huge physique and profile. But the Queensland Origin coach has set up residence back in Canberra, providing more support for his young family. At this stage Mal, who captained the Raiders to three premierships, has not established any formal links with the Canberra club, given he's still busy setting the framework for a tilt at a ninth consecutive Origin series win with the Maroons. But watch this space; it'd be surprising if the Raiders didn't try to employ Mal in some official capacity, given his clout in the game.

Raiders prop ready for business

Raiders prop Brett White will open his own business, the Pita Pit, this month but don't think it means the former Australian Kangaroos representative is ready to hang up the footy boots. White will open the food franchise in Braddon on May 15, going into partnership with his former Melbourne Storm and Raiders teammate Glen Turner. But the 32-year-old, who comes off contract at the end of the season, is leaning towards playing on in the NRL. "It comes down to what the Raiders want to do,'' White said. "At the start of the year I was in two minds, but I'm leaning towards wanting to go around again. I'm not final on that." Raiders coach Ricky Stuart is a big fan of White's, including what he provides to the club off the field in terms of leadership. White is Canberra's representative for the NRL's Trading Up program, a mentoring system for young players to ensure they think of careers beyond football. It was 2007, when playing in Auckland for the Melbourne Storm, that White first got a taste for the Pita Pit. Two years ago, sidelined with a season-ending knee injury, he decided to explore his own franchise. White completed a business diploma and it will be the only Australian Pita Pit store outside Queensland. "It's healthy grilled meats, salads all on preservative-free pita bread," he said. Looks like Raiders skipper Terry Campese, a franchise owner with Crust Pizza, has some competition. 

Lealiifano loves life in Canberra

ACT Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham says star playmaker Christian Lealiifano has assured him he won't play for another Australian club. The Wallabies centre is being tempted by lucrative offers in Europe, but has to weigh up whether he wants to leave Australia and miss a chance to play at the World Cup next year. Lealiifano had been linked to the Melbourne Rebels, but Larkham said Lealiifano's preference was Canberra. "He wants to be here ... I'm positive he will remain in Canberra if he doesn't leave the country," Larkham said. The new ARU Super Rugby contract system limits the bidding war between Australian clubs. The ARU sets the Super Rugby contract price before offering top-up deals to Wallabies players. The Brumbies are poised to announce at least two signings as early as Monday. It's understood one player will recommit to the club while a new recruit will also be unveiled. Lealiifano heads a host of Wallabies – including Matt Toomua, Nic White, Jesse Mogg, Scott Fardy, Scott Sio and Joseph Tomane – off contract this year. Young gun and Australian under-20s captain Tom Staniforth is set to be offered a two-year deal to start his professional career.

Jake putting up white flag?

Is Jake White avoiding us? The former Brumbies coach won't bring his team, the Durban Sharks, to Canberra until next Friday, on the eve of the much-anticipated match against his former club. White has opted to use Sydney as a base, despite the team's Australian tour comprising matches in Melbourne and Canberra. The Sharks became the first South African team to win in Australia this year when they beat the Melbourne Rebels on Friday. It will be interesting to see what reception White gets from the crowd given he quit with two years remaining on his contract with the Brumbies after taking them to a grand final. The Brumbies are toying with an idea of encouraging fans to wear white to the game, with White joking: "Is it a tribute or are they surrendering?"

Ricky sticks to his day job

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart was one of two to skip the NRL's annual coaches conference in Sydney last Friday, but it wasn't to take the day off. Stuart was in his office at Bruce going through tape of the New Zealand Warriors, trying to find answers after last weekend's 54-18 loss to Manly. Both of Stuart's assistant coaches were involved with representative duties during the week, Matt Parish with Samoa and Dean Pay with the NSW under-20s. The weekend's bye also gave Stuart the chance to watch plenty of footy – involving his two sons. A former dual international, Stuart's two boys are both playing rugby union with St Edmund's College and league with the Woden Valley Rams.

League in touch with feminine side

The growing partnership between rugby league and Touch Football Australia has flowed down to the grassroots level, with a women's touch football competition now being played in combination with the men's George Tooke Shield rugby league competition. An inaugural women's touch competition will be played an hour before all George Tooke games, with teams aligned to the male clubs. Crookwell was the only one of eight clubs unable to field a women's touch team, with Canberra's Boomanulla Raiders joining teams from Harden, Binalong, Yass, Boorowa and Bungendore. ACT Touch Football manager Rod Wise said the long-term strategy was to align women's touch teams with the next tier of men's rugby league, the Canberra Raiders Cup. "One of the things we undertook when the NRL and Touch Football Australia hooked up was to look at the number of women participating in the sport; this is a good way of doing it,'' Wise said. Boomanulla chief executive Clinton Scott-Knight supported the concept. "There isn't enough women's involvement with the rugby league, so this brings in a wider audience and definitely factors for more women to come out and be involved with our games," he said.


Want to run New York Marathon?

Queanbeyan mother of four Georgia Gleeson completed the New York Marathon last year, and now Rob De Castella's Indigenous Marathon Project (IMP) is in Canberra again to try and inspire the next group to tackle the renowned 42.195 kilometres. The IMP will be at Reconciliation Place at 7.30am on Tuesday completing a national tour of try-outs to find 12 lucky runners. All indigenous people aged 18-30 are encouraged to attend, with women required to run 3 kilometres and men 5 kilometres. “Running is our vehicle to drive change, promote a healthy lifestyle and create inspirational role models within indigenous communities Australia-wide,'' De Castella said. As well as a guided training program, successful applicants undertake a Cert IV in Leisure and Health, providing education for a possible career.