Raiders unlikely to lobby NRL for salary cap relief

Raiders unlikely to lobby NRL for salary cap relief

The Canberra Raiders are unlikely to lobby the NRL again to be granted a salary cap exemption despite their outside back crisis worsening with a hamstring injury to Brenko Lee.

The teenage centre will miss the next two to four weeks with a grade-one tear suffered in Canberra's 36-20 win on the Gold Coast on Sunday, which broke a four-game losing streak.

Brenko Lee injured his hamstring against the Titans on Sunday.

Brenko Lee injured his hamstring against the Titans on Sunday.Credit:Getty Images

Canberra is frustrated it is unable to blood another youngster to replace Lee after the NRL denied their request to hand Jeremy Hawkins a debut against the Titans to replace Jack Wighton (broken thumb).

The Raiders had already reached the limit of their $440,000 second-tier salary cap, and the NRL ruled they had fit replacements available in their top-25 squad, with Reece Robinson getting the nod.


Wighton has already been ruled out of Saturday's clash in Melbourne, but is a chance to return next Monday night against Souths at home.

Canberra officials said on Monday ''no, at this stage'' when asked if they intended to ask the NRL again for cap relief.

The system has come under heavy fire this week, particularly from Penrith Panthers boss Phil Gould who branded it ''unfair'', ''inadequate'' and ''ridiculous'' in a newspaper column.

Last season Raiders halfback Mitch Cornish, Panthers fullback Matt Moylan and Tigers playmaker Luke Brooks were all denied extended time in first grade due to the second-tier salary cap.

While back rower Jarrad Kennedy deputised ably for Lee after he left the field in the second half, he is unlikely to be thrust into the hot seat for Saturday night's clash in Melbourne.

Warriors-bound centre Matt Allwood is likely to earn a recall as the Raiders shoot for a remarkable fourth-straight win at Melbourne on Saturday.

"It's hard when you've got injuries in the same position, the salary cap doesn't allow you to stockpile,'' Raiders coach Ricky Stuart said.

Meanwhile, the Raiders have begun contract talks with rookie hooker Kurt Baptiste following two impressive games for the club.

The 23-year-old played just five games for Brisbane, the last in round seven, 2012, before heading to Canberra to try and ignite his career this season.

He has taken his chance with strong back-to-back displays against Wests Tigers and the Titans, and he is in Stuart's long-term plans.

Baptiste was rated by many as better than Andrew McCullough, who has since made the Broncos number nine jersey his own, when he first burst on to the scene.

"We have spoken to Kurt Baptiste about his future, and we're keen on him staying,'' Stuart said.

Baptiste provided a spark off the bench midway through the Gold Coast match and expects to improve as he readjusts to NRL level.

"I think I was just getting used to the pace last week [against the Tigers] and just getting another game was great,'' he said.

"I've spent a few years in Queensland Cup and I'm just trying to take my chance now and hopefully keep performing.

"Obviously there's a few hookers here and I'm just another one fighting for a position.

"I'm hopeful I can stay here but we'll see what happens.''


NRL round 19: Melbourne Storm v Canberra Raiders at AAMI Park, 5.30pm

TV Time: Live on Fox Sports 1

Jon Tuxworth is a sports reporter at The Canberra Times.

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