The Raiders would welcome star winger Nick Cotric back to the club with open arms as early as next season if a deal can be struck with the Canterbury Bulldogs around the final two years of his lucrative deal at Belmore.
Big-spending Canterbury are facing imminent salary cap problems, and offloading Cotric, who still has two seasons to run on a three-year deal believed to be worth $1.8 million, would help alleviate a hefty chunk of the strain.
His manager Sam Ayoub has already contacted a number of clubs about Cotric, including the Raiders where the 23-year-old scored 46 tries in 93 matches across his first four NRL seasons. Ayoub was in Canberra on Wednesday, but the visit was not Cotric-related.
Canberra has one spot left on its NRL roster for next year, which the club had been happy to keep vacant until the right player came along. Coach Ricky Stuart would happily make Cotric the 30th and final man on Canberra's 2022 NRL playing list, and he would likely walk straight back into Ricky Stuart's starting 13 should he return to the capital.
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That would hinge on the two clubs striking an arrangement to share the player's salary for the next two seasons.
"If it's true and he does come back, we welcome him with open arms, he's a wonderful player and we know what he can do on the football field," Raiders winger Jordan Rapana said.
"He's a Canberra boy, this is his home. It was devastating when he did leave. I know a lot of fans and especially us boys were upset when he left.
"He's a big body and he's able to break those tackles. We definitely have missed that. He'd be just a great attribute to have, bring in those tries and that attacking flair back in."
Cotric played his junior football in Canberra and still has strong family ties in the ACT. He has reportedly also been offered to the Parramatta Eels and Wests Tigers, while expansion club Redcliffe and the New Zealand Warriors were also believed to be interested in his services.
The Tigers had been hoping to secure a similar salary-sharing deal with the Raiders to facilitate a move for English hooker Josh Hodgson to play at Concord in 2022, but the clubs were unable to agree to financial terms.
Canterbury would likely be much more open to such an arrangement, with the Bulldogs' cap expected to be bulging in the coming seasons after a number of big signings.
One of those is Penrith back-rower Viliame Kikau, who is set to join the Bulldogs from 2023 on a deal believed to be worth $3.2 million over four seasons. The Bulldogs have also reportedly signed Parramatta hooker Reed Mahoney to start at the same time.
The Raiders missed Cotric's experience on the field in 2021, and the club's outside back depth was tested through injuries to the likes of Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Bailey Simonsson.
Matt Timoko, Semi Valemei, Harley Smith-Shields and Xavier Savage were all called upon throughout the season.
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