Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart says Joey Leilua is the best right centre in the NRL
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Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart says Joey Leilua is the best right centre in the NRL

Coach Ricky Stuart never had any doubts about bringing gun centre Joey Leilua to the Canberra Raiders and believes he's the best right centre in the NRL.

Leilua starred in his 150th game, with the Raiders his fourth NRL club along with St George Illawarra, the Sydney Roosters and Newcastle.

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart bask Joey Leilua as the best right centre in the NRL.

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart bask Joey Leilua as the best right centre in the NRL.Credit:Getty Images

Early in his career he had a reputation as a bad boy, but has grown into one of the leaders in Canberra - as well as one of the most destructive players in the game.

But that reputation never bothered Stuart.

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Instead, the Raiders mentor simply sees the attacking flair.

Leilua scored a try, ran for 135 metres and had two try assists in the emphatic eight-tries-to-three victory over the Gold Coast Titans on Saturday.

The 25-year-old's performances this season and last have brought him into the representative frame, with a shot at Australian and NSW jerseys over the coming months - starting with the final Anzac Test, to be played at Canberra Stadium on May 5.

Stuart didn't want to be drawn on Leilua's Kangaroos and Blues chances, but was happy to endorse the man he brought to Canberra.

"With Joey, no I never ever saw it as a gamble. I've known Joey for a long time and it's just a matter of knowing how to deal with certain individuals," he said.

"I deal with every individual differently at our club. I say it all the time, we're all mates.

"Joey's in wonderful form, probably his career-best form to be quite honest. I think he's the best right centre in the game."

His right-edge partner in destruction, Jordan Rapana, should be a shoe in to play for New Zealand in that Anzac Test after also starring in the Titans beating.

He scored a hat-trick and after the win labelled Leilua a "freak" and said it was good to be able to make his mate's milestone "special".

The 42-16 victory over the Titans was the Raiders' first time they've had two wins in a row this season and Rapana said it was important they looked to turn that into a longer streak.

They face the New Zealand Warriors at Canberra Stadium on Saturday, who are coming off a 22-10 win over Parramatta at home.

"We need to start getting some wins together so this is just a snowball effect. Hopefully it starts getting a bit of confidence and cohesion together so hopefully we can take it on to next week," Rapana said.

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NRL ROUND SEVEN

Saturday: Canberra Raiders v New Zealand Warriors at Canberra Stadium, 5.30pm. Tickets available from Ticketek.

David Polkinghorne covers the Canberra Raiders, local rugby league, Canberra Cavalry, racing and cycling, along with every other sport, for The Canberra Times.