NRL: Canberra Raiders close in on re-signing Jordan Rapana and Edrick Lee

The Canberra Raiders are moving to lock in one of the NRL’s hottest wingers as coach Ricky Stuart looks to keep his current team together until at least 2018.
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Both Jordan Rapana and Edrick Lee are off contract at the end of 2017, but Raiders recruitment manager Peter Mulholland was looking to extend the pair for at least another season.

With back-up hooker Kurt Baptiste on the cusp of re-signing with the club for another two years as well, it would mean almost the entire 17 that ran out against the Melbourne Storm in the preliminary final on Saturday will be with the Green Machine for at least another two seasons.

Mulholland said it was promising signs for the Raiders, who were “12 months ahead” of where they thought they would be at the start of this year.

Their charge to this year’s prelim has been rewarded with five players – Josh Papalii, Shannon Boyd, Joey Leilua, Jarrod Croker and Junior Paulo – added to Mal Meninga’s Kangaroos train-on squad on Monday

Rapana has been brilliant this season and he looks set to make his international debut for New Zealand after he set a new try-scoring record for the Green Machine this year.

His mark of 23 is the highest number of tries in a season in Raiders history, beating the previous best of 22 shared between Noa Nadruku, Brett Mullins and Jason Croker.

“We certainly won’t be moving [Rapana and Lee] on, we’ve already started talks with their managers,” Mulholland said.

“We’ve got a very stable squad until the end of ’18. I’d say that’s what Rick wants to work on.

“He’s done a marvellous job to assemble the squad and we’re probably 12 months ahead of where we thought we might be.

“Full credit to the players, but I think full credit to Ricky for what he’s done with them.”

They’re still waiting to find out if half Sam Williams will accept the deal they’ve offered him.

Williams slotted in seamlessly when either of the Raiders’ first-choice halves pairing of Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer were out injured.

He was named the NSW Cup player of the year as he helped guide the Raiders-affiliated Mounties to the grand final.

“If he decides to leave that’s great, it’ll be for greener pastures for him, but his contract offer is on the table for as long as he wants,” Mulholland said.

“I don’t want to make a rushed decision on it, and [chief executive Don Furner] and Ricky totally agree that it’s there for as long as Sam wants it and that’s out of respect to him, so we’ll see what happens.”

Mulholland expected the versatile Jordan Turner to arrive from England in November – if he doesn’t make the English Four Nations squad.

The 27-year-old can play in the centres, second row or at five-eighth and boosts the Raiders’ depth even further.

“He’s a squad player that will give us enormous depth and a lot of experience with over 200 Super League games,” Mulholland said.

“He’s an able replacement for someone like Brenko Lee, he’s an able replacement for Sam Williams [if he goes], he’s a support player for our edge back row.

“He’s like the other two Englishmen – he’s got a point to prove.”

Canberra have bolstered their front row stocks in signing Canterbury front-rower and Cook Islands international Makahesi Makatoa on a full-time contract, while under-20s prop Daniel Dole will remain with the club.

Back-up fullback Zac Santo has also accepted a one-year deal for next season.

Mounties second-rower Scott Sorensen will also join the full-time squad, while the club has opted to hold on to Mounties centre Brent Naden.

Other under-20s graduates Zeik Foster (halfback), Thomas Cronan (fullback), and Connor Cheeseman (lock) will “do some work with [the NRL squad] full-time and they’ll go back up to Mounties”.

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