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UK still OK: Raiders won't write off English recruits amid roster moves

The Raiders won't be put off recruiting out of the UK as they sit tight on a marquee half replacement for George Williams and plot a roster revamp to better suit the six-again rules.

Williams' long-touted linking with Warrington was confirmed overnight after the most bitter of splits from Canberra with 18 months left on his contract.

The Raiders early release of Williams in May left the club with the Englishman's salary – believed to be more than $600,000 for next season – and in need of a chief playmaker for next season to partner Jack Wighton.

Veteran local product Sam Williams is understood to have a one-year extension offer in front of him, while Canberra willing to wait on a volatile player market to present an attractive replacement for his namesake after Gareth Widdop indicated he plans to remain at Warrington as well in 2022.

The homesickness and bitter saga around Williams' eventual early release, as well as John Bateman's exit from Canberra last year, has raised queries around the club's concerted targeting of Super League signings given the uncertain landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Renowned Raiders recruitment guru Peter Mulholland acknowledges Canberra are due to reshape their roster given the age of key players and game-wide six-again shake-up that caught Ricky Stuart's side "on the hop".

But he has no hesitation in still looking to England given the successful stints of Josh Hodgson, Elliott Whitehead, Ryan Sutton and Williams and Bateman before their respective fall-outs with the Raiders.

"You've got to fish where the fish are and we've had some real success out of the UK," Mulholland told NRL.com.

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"We're certainly still looking and right now it's probably the younger generation, the academy level players that we're looking at.

"It comes down to the individual player and don't get me wrong, George is a great kid and a great player. It just didn't work out.

"If anything I'd say there will probably be a bit more diligence taken around which players we do recruit and how we do it, but that avenue's certainly not broken.

"Super League and English players are still a viable option, absolutely."  

Canberra's upset win over Manly – built on the back of eight forced drop-outs, three each from Williams and back-up five-eighth Matt Frawley – keeps them on the edge of the top eight with two months to go in the regular season.

The sorely-needed victory follows a retention spree that has tied up youngsters Xavier Savage (signed until 2023), Sebastian Kris, Matt Timoko and Semi Valemei (2024).

The Raiders currently sit in ninth place behind Cronulla, though could fall as low as 13th by the end of round 17 depending on results.

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Even if Canberra can convert a disastrous 2021 start into another finals appearance, Mulholland concedes change is on the way in the nation's capital to keep the club's premiership window open.

Especially with 2021's new six-again rules – aimed at emphasising fatigue and keeping the ball in play – reshaping recruitment priorities across the NRL.

"We've got to," Mulholland said.

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"We're probably at the end of our cycle. We thought we had three years with a real opportunity there, one [year] was a grand final, one was one game off a grand final and then this year the rule changes have kicked us in the arse.

"It's certainly not the only thing but it has had an effect.

"We're looking for a halfback. We've tied up our young guys recently and have 5-6 spots left in our top 30 next year so we'll be out to bolster that, either from within or looking for something in the market."