Baptiste 'grateful' for Raiders deal
Canberra hooker Kurt Baptiste says he's "grateful" to have secured a new two-year deal at the Raiders, keeping him in the nation's capital through to at least the end of 2018.
Starting his NRL career at Brisbane opportunities in first grade at Red Hill proved hard to come by, with Baptiste moving south in the lead-up to the 2014 season in search of more regular NRL game time, making five appearances towards the back end of his first year in Canberra.
He would improve on this the following year – playing 16 games and scoring two tries – before becoming an integral member of Ricky Stuart's side on their run to the preliminary finals in 2016, starting from the bench on all but one occasion and striking one of the most effective hooking combinations in the NRL with England international Josh Hodgson.
Commencing his fourth pre-season at the club, Baptiste said he was relishing the challenge of another few months of summer training with his future settled for the foreseeable future.
"I'm really looking forward to the next two years, I'm just grateful for the opportunity the Raiders have given me here," Baptiste said at Raiders HQ on the first day of the club's pre-season training.
"I'm looking forward to getting into pre-season and looking forward to next year.
"It's always going to be tough, every club's going through it at the moment. It's the start of a new year and everyone starts on the same level.
"They're all pretty hard, they're all tough. They seem to get a bit tougher each year and I'm sure this will be no different."
Canberra players were well represented at the season-ending Four Nations tournament, with Shannon Boyd (Australia), Jordan Rapana, Joseph Tapine (both New Zealand), Hodgson and Elliott Whitehead (both England) all still yet to report back to the club for 2016 preparations.
When quizzed about his teammates' experiences in the UK, Baptiste was confident it would give the side a lift as they attempt to go one better in 2017.
"I think it would be a great experience over there, I think they'll bring a lot of confidence to the squad and they'll probably be better players for it," Baptiste said.
"I'm sure they'll come back in pretty good nick after Christmas and we'll be able to hit the ground running there.
"Me and 'Clydy' (hooker Adam Clydsdale) will be there in the hooking duties while Josh is away and it gives us a bit of time to work on those combinations before he gets back. It'll be good to have him back."