Canberra coach Ricky Stuart doesn’t want to lose John Bateman as a member of "the Raiders family" but admits no one player is bigger than the entire squad.
Bateman’s future at the club has dominated recent headlines after Raiders CEO Don Furner gave the English international permission to test the open market from beyond 2021.
After bursting onto the scene in the NRL last season, Bateman would be one of the hottest free agents in recent years such was his immediate impact for the Green Machine.
However, Stuart said the club would still do what it could to keep the skilful back-rower given what he meant to the club on and off the field.
"It’s a part of the business, it’s a very challenging time at the moment because John’s a big part of the family and I’ve got a great relationship with John and I don’t want to lose him," Stuart said.
Stuart lauds free flowing rugby league
"But there’s different scenarios and circumstances around the decision, which is very unfortunate.
"But I’ve got a squad of players here to worry about, I can’t take my eye off that, and Don [Furner] has already said he’s given the opportunity for John to go and test the market because he and his manager are after a bigger pay day."
On the field Stuart said he was excited about the changes to the game - showcased for the first time in Parramatta's win over Brisbane on Thursday night.
Storm v Raiders - Round 3
Stuart said the six-again rule would keep teams more honest in the ruck, with the risk versus reward of slowing the ball down now greater than ever.
"It was a feeling of excitement - we really saw an open affair of football and it’s a little back to the old days where we saw free-flowing attack and second-phase football," Stuart said of the new rules.
"The talented and skilful player really had a great opportunity in a game that still has a lot of collision and a lot of high speed and intensity.
"The messy, ugly wrestle on the ground where we were trying to win it, that seemed to be eliminated last night, letting the play-the-ball be a little quicker.
"You could see players be a little more nervous in thinking ‘will I put my hand on the ball’ or ‘will I try and slow the ruck down’.
"That seemed to disappear more which got the ball flowing a bit more freely and personally I thought it was a very good spectacle of football.
"I think that’s what we need to develop and go to that stage of our game with what we saw last night."
Seibold has his say on rule changes
Stuart admitted his love for the NRL product had started to wane as the ruck continued to be a focal point of how teams constructed game plans.
"I was really losing faith in the game, I was getting annoyed watching rugby league because I thought there was too much mess after the collision," he said.
"The game is still all about collision, you can see that last night, the line speed of Parramatta and the Broncos was certainly there and that’s still a part of the game to be won."
Stuart and the Raiders will get their first taste of the new rules on Saturday night when they travel to AAMI Park to take on close rivals Melbourne.
Canberra will be aiming for their third win in a row against the Storm in hostile territory while Melbourne are looking for a remarkable seventh 3-0 start to a season in the last nine years.