New Canberra Raiders deal takes Luke Bateman out of his 'comfort zone'
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New Canberra Raiders deal takes Luke Bateman out of his 'comfort zone'

Luke Bateman says signing a one-year extension with the Canberra Raiders will force him out of his comfort zone and put the onus on himself to "aim up".

The Raiders have ticked off their first major signing for next season with Bateman inking a fresh one-year deal with the club that will keep him in the capital until the end of 2019.

Luke Bateman wants to take himself out of his own comfort zone.

Luke Bateman wants to take himself out of his own comfort zone.Credit:Jamila Toderas

The club pushed for a longer deal for the lock forward but Bateman only wanted to sign for one more season because he remains steadfast in the belief he will improve and lift his market value.

The 23-year-old is desperate to prove that to both himself and the club as he prepares to take on the Cronulla Sharks at Canberra Stadium on Sunday.

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"In that way it kind of leaves it up to me, if I play good footy and I perform well, then the contracts get bigger," Bateman said.

"Instead of falling back into my comfort zone, it puts a bit of onus on me to perform and aim up, play good footy and the rewards will come.

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"We’ll probably see a lot of improvement in me as I get older and I didn’t want to lock in anything for too long. Not that I plan on going anywhere in the future, I just didn’t want to lock in anything for too long.

"As a forward, I’m only 23 and forwards don’t hit their prime until they’re 25 or 26. I still think I can improve a lot on my footy as I get older.

"I said to my manager at the start of the year when we were talking that I don’t want to go anywhere. It probably hinders me a little bit that I tell the Raiders I don’t want to go anywhere.

"Whether the team is performing or not never crossed my mind to go anywhere else."

Bateman has long been identified as a priority re-signing and the club will now turn its attention towards retaining a host of other key players.

Prop Shannon Boyd has been linked to the Gold Coast on a deal worth more than $650,000 per season but he says he "hopefully" has a future in lime green.

High-profile stars Josh Papalii, Aidan Sezer, Blake Austin and Sia Soliola headline a list of 12 Raiders coming off-contract at the end of the season.

Bateman wants to see more of them commit to building something special in Canberra after coach Ricky Stuart conceded the Green Machine wouldn't be able to match "astronomical" figures on offer from rival clubs.

"I’d like to see a few more boys sign, it’d be good. We’ve got a really good group here and I’d hate to lose too many," Bateman said.

"It’s huge, playing with the same blokes and the same game plan over two or three years, you get that continuity between the group, it does help out a lot.

"It does [play on your mind], it’s never nice knowing that you don’t know what your future is. It is definitely comforting when you do agree to a deal but when you're playing a game you’re not really thinking about what your contract is."

Bateman has played 58 games for the Raiders since making his NRL debut in 2015 - the same year Canberra veteran Sia Soliola arrived in the capital.

Soliola says Bateman's retention is brilliant news for the club as they go knocking on the door of the top eight against the Sharks this weekend.

"I’ve really seen some positive signs with Luke, not only that, just the growth as well. He has just taken leaps and bounds in terms of how he has progressed as a regular first-grader," Soliola said.

NRL ROUND 10

Saturday: Canberra Raiders v Cronulla Sharks at Canberra Stadium, 4.10pm. Tickets from Ticketek.

Caden Helmers is a sports reporter for The Canberra Times

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