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NRL News: Raiders CONFIRM surprise Ricky contract call, Dragons star could be on the way out

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15th May, 2024
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After inking a four-year contract extension, Ricky Stuart says he wants to change every Canberra player’s life by sharing the feeling of winning a premiership with the Raiders. 

Ahead of the 30-year anniversary of the club’s last NRL premiership, Canberra announced on Wednesday that Stuart had signed a new deal to the end of 2029.

Canberra play Canterbury, who the Raiders beat in the 1994 grand final, to open Magic Round at Suncorp Stadium on Friday.

And the reunion has fuelled the fire within Stuart to be the man to lead the Green Machine back to their glory days when he was the team’s halfback

“It (a premiership) is everyone’s goal,” Stuart said. 

“I’ve been fortunate that I’ve done it as a coach, I’m fortunate I’ve done it as a player. 

“I’ve just walked out of the meeting with the players and I touched on the ’94 reunion theme. 

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“My ultimate goal is to change every one of my players’ lives that I coach, one day hoping we can get to win the grand final because it changes your life.”

Stuart has long stressed the need for patience with Canberra after he arrived at the club in 2014. 

He struggled to hit the high notes in his first few seasons, but the former Australian Test halfback has taken the club to two preliminary finals and a 2019 grand final defeat across his 10-year reign.

Stuart deserves credit for making the finals in four of the past five seasons while overturning the club’s roster. 

Similar challenges are ahead, with Jordan Rapana, Elliott Whitehead and Josh Papalii approaching the back end of their careers.

But Stuart is buoyed by the prospect of transitioning an emerging young group headlined by five-eighth Ethan Strange, centre Matt Timoko and fullback Chevy Stewart into the bedrock of the Raiders’ future success. 

“Building a roster to be competitive is one thing, building a roster to be competitive to make the top four is another,” Stuart said. 

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“I’ve got no doubt about our development, we’ve proven that we can develop players into Origin and Test players.

“We’ve changed tack in regards to some of our recruitment strategy, and we’ve looked at younger players and bringing them in earlier. 

“We’ve got another couple of young boys that we’ve signed that we will announce over the next couple of weeks.”

De Belin’s future uncertain at Dragons

“Frustrating” uncertainty is clouding Jack de Belin’s future at St George Illawarra and leaving the prop to fear for his dream of remaining a one-club player.

Last season, de Belin triggered an option in his $700,000-a-year contract to remain with the Dragons for 2024, but he is currently free to negotiate with rivals for next year.

The middle forward has long maintained he feels fitter than his 33 years would suggest, having spent two-and-a-half years out of the game facing sexual assault charges. In 2021, he was acquitted on one count, with four others dropped following two hung juries.

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In recent days, the highly paid de Belin has been linked with a move to the Super League.

But despite his former Dragons teammates Matt Dufty, Adam Clune and Tariq Sims hyping up the European competition to him, de Belin feels he has unfinished business in Australia.

ROCKHAMPTON, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 28: Jack De Belin of the Dragons looks on during the round 24 NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the North Queensland Cowboys at Browne Park, on August 28, 2021, in Rockhampton, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Jack de Belin was previously stood down by the NRL when he faced serious charges. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

“I still feel like I’ve got plenty to offer in the NRL, to be honest,” he said.

“Obviously the age is maybe a bit of a factor that might scare off a few people or clubs or even the Dragons, in a sense.

“(But) I’m pretty happy I’ve looked after myself, sacrificed plenty of nights out and partying. It’s paying off now and I still feel great. I’ve got a few years left at least.”

AAP understands the Dragons are in discussions with de Belin’s manager Steve Gillis, but that no offer has yet been tabled.

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De Belin is also yet to discuss his future with first-year Dragons coach Shane Flanagan, who is set to continue reconfiguring the club’s roster.

“It’s a bit of a grey area, to be honest, which is frustrating,” de Belin said of his future.

“I’ve always made my intentions (clear) to be a one-club man, but at the moment I’m not too sure if that’s the case.”

De Belin would not be opposed to a move overseas if options ran out in the NRL, though that would mean relocating his young family to the other side of the world.

Choosing when to pull the trigger on a move to England can also be difficult in a professional sense, de Belin says.

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“You do have a lot of things to be weighing up … do I go now while I’m still playing good, or do I stay in the NRL while I’m still feeling good and definitely up for it?” he said.

“I’ve got a heap of mates over there and they reckon the lifestyle is really good. But to be honest, I love living down in Wollongong. It’d be hard to pack up and move, but at the same time it is what it is.”

One thing is for sure: the former State of Origin representative is keen for clarity. I’d like to be able to sort out my future and know what’s happening,” he said.

with AAP

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