Whitehead aims to shed versatility tag

Canberra's Elliott Whitehead is hoping to shelve his versatility tag and become a mainstay on the edge again after conceding that two seasons of covering different positions had unsettled his rhythm.

Whitehead was happy to pass the utility tag on to fellow English recruit John Bateman this season, who he took under his wing when the former Wigan star arrived in Australia over the summer.

Bateman is pushing for a back-row spot alongside Whitehead, while they're both possible centre options if either Jarrod Croker or Joey Leilua are sidelined at any stage.

The 29-year-old is viewed as one of Canberra's most consistent performers but insists he hasn't felt that way on a personal note.

"Hopefully I can stay in the back row for this year and get some consistency back in my game," Whitehead told NRL.com.

"The last couple of years I've moved around with injuries. If I must again then so be it but I'd like to hopefully stay in one spot as much as I can.

"We've lost three big players and that size but we've got the mobility now and we can move the ball around a little bit more. It starts this week and hopefully we can kick on from there."

Raiders forward Elliott Whitehead.
Raiders forward Elliott Whitehead. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

Whitehead said Bateman, who has been named to make his NRL debut at lock for Sunday's clash with the Gold Coast Titans, was well prepared for his first taste of club rugby league in Australia.

"It didn't take him long to settle in, he's a lively character and tries to crack a few jokes," Whitehead said.

"We have to pretend they're funny and that we like him. In all seriousness he's settled in well and is looking good. Hopefully he can perform now. It's what he came over to do and he's got his chance now.

"Him and Ryan Sutton struggled early on with the heat. You're running eight kilometres every day in 38-degree weather but after two weeks they were conditioned and in results they were up there with some of our better trainers.

"This was my fourth pre-season now and I still feel it but I'm a little bit better than when I first arrived."

Whitehead is contracted to the club until the end of the 2020 season and will be 31 by the end of next year.

Any plans to return to the UK and follow England teammate Gareth Widdop home before his deal runs out seem unlikely.

"I'd be happy to stay here. I really enjoy Canberra and I'm swinging towards staying in Australia more than what I used to," Whitehead said.

"It's a nice lifestyle, the weather isn't too bad and it's easier getting up in the morning when it's not minus four and you don't have to shovel snow off your driveway.

"As long as I'm playing well and the Raiders are happy to keep me on I'd be happy to stay. I'm getting old anyway they might not want me. I probably won't start speaking to the club until early next year."